If I just explain the facts, they’ll get it, right?

– My elected official isn't on board with climate science. They're saying crazy things like the data is fake or the planet's not even warming. Could you just come and talk to them? If you explain the science clearly, I know they'd get it, right? (chiming music) When we hear people objecting to the reality of climate change, they often use sciency-sounding arguments. The data is wrong, they argue, or we don't know enough yet, we need to study it longer. Or they throw out big words like tropopause and trot out claims that the satellite data says it isn't warming in an attempt to buttress their scientific bonafides. If we don't know better, we fall for that smoke screen. But that's what it is: to hide the real reasons those very same people object to addressing climate change. And those real reasons have a lot more to do with identify and ideology than they do with data and facts.

That's why the facts are not enough. More information will not convince the hardcore dismissives. In fact, social science shows that if rejecting climate science is related to our core identity, who we see ourselves to be in the world, then arguing over data and facts can actually be counterproductive. People see it as an attack on who they are, saying that they're a bad person even sometimes. And so, they respond to that predictabley as any of us would if we were personally attacked by digging in and doubling down. I'm a climate scientist, I study the physics that underlies our planet's climate system. And I know that the very same physics that we use to design airplanes and make our fridges work, is what we use in our climate models today. So if we really reject the science of climate change, we have to get rid of our airplanes and our fridges and a lot of other technology that we use every day, and as far as I know, no one has. That'd be silly. So that's why, in my opinion, the greatest advances in our understanding of climate change over the last decade haven't come from the physical sciences. A lot of that stuff we've known for a really long time.

The new advances have come from the social sciences: education, communication, even marketing studies that have opened the door on the human mind and how it interacts with information, especially information we don't want to know. Just because we know more about the science doesn't mean we're more likely to agree that climate change is real. In fact, Dan Kahan has showed that the more science we know, the more polarized we tend to be on climate change. And attempting to educate people runs the risk of simply deepening that polarization. Fine tuning this result, though, it turns out that the type of knowledge matters. More information about the physical science, why climate is changing, for example, doesn't help. But information about how it affect us does seem to sway minds. And it's even better if that information is tied to something that we already care about.

Don't start with the science. Instead, start by connecting over a value that you genuinely share with whoever it is that you're talking to. It could be the simple fact that you're both parents or you live in the same place or you enjoy the same types of activities, whether it's fishing or hunting or birding or hiking or running or skiing. There's just one caveat. That shared value has got to be something real. We can smell pandering a mile away. I'm not a big hunter, so I wouldn't be the best person, for example, to go talk to a group about how climate change is affecting Texas' quail population. But I do have several colleagues who'd be great at that. So first, identify what you have in common, connect the dots between what both of you already care about and the issue of climate change. As a mom, I'm concerned about climate change because it affects our kids' health and their future.

As a person living in West Texas, I worry about the impact of stronger heat waves and droughts and even floods on our local economy. I'm not a Rotarian, but I am familiar with the group's Four Way Test. Did you know that climate change fits into it exactly? Is it the truth? Yeah, it sure is. Is is fair to all concerned? Heck, no, the poor are being impacted far more that the rich, and that isn't fair. Will it build good will to fix it? For sure. And, would a clean energy economy be beneficial to all concerned? For all but the fossil fuel companies, yeah, absolutely. I'm not an expert in the economy or national defense, but we have experts like Michael Bloomberg or the Pentagon. And they have a lot to say about how climate change affects businesses and the military.

Perhaps the biggest shared value we can bond over, though, often is our faith. More that 80% of people around the world belong to one major religion or another. And there isn't a single one of those that doesn't teach responsibility for the planet and love and care for those less fortunate than us. Social science has taught us one more essential thing. If we present people with a problem or a challenge, even one that has no politicization or controversy associated with it, but we don't offer a solution that people can engage with, we feel disenfranchised, powerless. And our only defense mechanism is to reject or disassociate from the reality of the problem. Deny it, or simply not care. That's true whether we're talking about the simple fact that, you know, eating trans fats is bad for us, or discussing how we should be saving more for retirement, or if we're talking about the need to tackle climate change.

If we don't offer a solution, it starts to look insurmountable, and so our brain's just refuse to acknowledge that the problem exists. How can we overcome this barrier? By offering practical, viable, and even attractive solutions that whoever we're talking with can get exited about. A concerned homeowner? Mention the amazing benefits of energy conservation and how much you saved. Worried parent? Bring up practical steps we can take to make our outdoor play area safer for kids even as it's getting hotter in the summers. A national security buff for the military? Discuss the benefits of energy independence. Business minded people? Talk about the economic benefits of renewables. Here in Texas for example, per megawatt hour of new electricity, a solar or a wind farm generates eight times more local jobs than a natural gas power plant.

So, how can we change people's mind's about climate change? Not by bombarding them with more data and facts and science, but by bonding over a value that we truly share, by connecting that value to climate, and most importantly, by inspiring each other to act together to fix this problem. We all live on the same planet, and we all want the sames things. Only by acting together can we ensure a safe and secure future. (chiming music) Thank you for watching Global Weirding. Be sure to go to globalweirdingseries.com every other Wednesday so you don't miss the new episode. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel, you can like us on Facebook, and you can follow me on Twitter. We'll have a live discussion on both platforms after each new episode, Wednesdays at 7 central. See you next time. (relaxing music).