Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Guardian social scientist Rebecca Huntley, climate activists have to get even more emotional to convince the rest of us of the importance of global warming.
Stop making sense: why it’s time to get emotional about climate change
Sunday 5th July
It took me much longer than it should have to realise that educating people about climate change science was not enough. Due perhaps to my personality type (highly rational, don’t talk to me about horoscopes, please) and my background (the well-educated daughter of a high school teacher and an academic), I have grown up accepting the idea that facts persuade and emotions detract from a good argument.
Then again, I’m a social scientist. I study people. I deal mostly in feelings, not facts. A joke I like to tell about myself during speeches is that I’m an expert in the opinions of people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Over the 15 years I’ve been a social researcher, I’ve watched with concern the increasing effects of climate change, and also watched as significant chunks of the electorate voted for political parties with terrible climate change policies.
There is clearly a disconnect between what people say they are worried about and want action on and who, when given the chance, they pick to lead their country.
The science behind climate change has been proven correct to the highest degree of certainty the scientific method allows. But climate change is more than just the science. It’s a social phenomenon. And the social dimensions of climate change can make the science look simple – the laws of physics are orderly and neat but people are messy.
In an article for the academic journal Risk Analysis, the head of Yale’s program on climate change communications, Tony Leiserowitz, showed that in 2003, when respondents were asked in surveys for their first reaction to the phrase “global warming”, only 7% reacted with words like “hoax” or “scam”. By 2010 that had risen to 23%. There was a parallel trend in the UK: between 2003 and 2008, the belief that claims about climate change had been exaggerated almost doubled from 15% to 29%.
Rebecca Huntley is the director of research at Essential Media. She is an author of numerous books and a regular commentator on radio and television. She is an adjunct senior lecturer at The School of Social Sciences at The University of New South Wales.Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/05/stop-making-sense-why-its-time-to-get-emotional-about-climate-change
There is an alternative to trying to persuade people with emotion. Green activists could try making sense.
If climate activists had embraced nuclear power from the start, I would never have questioned global warming predictions. It was the absurdity of the proposed renewable solution which first raised questions in my mind about climate claims – if the proposed solution doesn’t make sense, maybe none of it makes sense.
The handful of green activists who are now embracing engineering sanity does not make up for the rest of them.