…tell the people who are confused.
This post was inspired by the thought-provoking response to a comment I made, by Inel, on her blog. My thanks to you, Inel, for the inspiration. Other ideas came from various dialogues in the globalchange group discussion on Google, and other bloggers listed in the sidebar.
Coby Beck has an excellent and well-publicised resource on How to talk to a climate sceptic.
I’ll be honest, when I first started using it, some of the answers were still a bit confusing; I felt that, at times, they begged the question. But this is nitpicking; it is a very useful place to start if you have friends/colleagues/posters who try to peddle the standard ‘sceptic’ lines.
The Royal Society (if you don’t know, that’s the UK’s national academy of science), has recently updated it’s pages on ‘Climate Change controversies; a simple guide‘. This is a good effort to keep it simple, at least by reducing the number of ‘misleading statements’, but the answers still take a bit of getting through for the ‘average Joe’.
Let’s be honest, though, have you ever come across a genuine climate sceptic who has changed their mind? Experience will tell most of us that the average sceptic is already decided on the subject and, whatever the reason, isn’t about to admit he/she was wrong, even if you can ever get him/her to imagine that this is possible.
The recent polls which have been discussed here and elsewhere seem to suggest that, at most, only about 15-25% of the population falls into this category. Amongst climate scientists, the number is no doubt smaller still. Here is the first contentious suggestion: if a sceptic ‘has a go’, stick to the standard line patiently and hope they’ll get bored and go away. Most of them are snarkers and bullies who thrive on confrontation and aggression. Tell them to go away. Block their irritating jibes. Answer the ones who appear to be polite and maybe just misled.
This is not a call to censorship or limit freedom of speech, nor is it a denial of an ‘alternative’ point of view. It is a value-judgement of the worth or merit of a comment or an argument. A huge proportion of sceptical comments on blogs are not worthy of response. If you are lucky, you’ll be found by a genuine sceptic, with genuine misunderstandings and questions. Cherish these people and encourage them to go with you on a journey of discovery.
The key audience that climate science, science blogs, climate bloggers, whomsoever, needs to address is the rather larger group of people who don’t really understand science very well, have been confused by the mixed messages and contradictions which appear in the mass media, and are unclear about whether what they are being told about ‘saving energy’ and ‘reducing emissions’ is a political ploy or a genuine global problem. These people are unwilling to trust politicians, are sometimes sceptical about ‘scare stories’ in the media, and will not wade through technical-sounding, jargony arguments. Tomorrow, I’m going to have a go at ‘how to talk to someone who is confused about climate change’.