101: How to change people`s mind about climate change

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There are discussions about literally anything online. Global warming is no exception. A huge part of owning a website about the environment is to follow what’s “being said out there”. Going into various discussion forums online is an interesting and necessary part of it.

Sometimes I get sad when I see what people write. Most of the time I get fascinated.

But more importantly: I start to understand the mechanisms of what’s needed in order to convince people that climate change is real. And that’s what this article is all about.

What can you learn from this article? [A quick summary]

This article is specially designed for those of you who:

– Have a friend or family member that believes climate change is a “big hoax” to force people to pay more taxes. After reading this text, you might actually be able to convince him or her that it’s not true.

– Are interested in the psychologial or political aspect of climate change denial.

– Just want to read something cool. 🙂

Background story: How to keep a healthy climate change debate online

Previously, I have written that sending people this specific article was the best way to convince people that climate change is real. And frankly, I still believe it is.

Presenting scientific evidence from NASA and other deeply respected organizations is, luckily, a very efficient way to convince people. If they are not convinced by that, they probably never will be. Unfortunately, feelings and opinions seem to care more about facts sometimes.

The big Reddit thread: How several people changed their opinion due to some random people online

However, I came across this interesting Reddit thread. The whole thread is started by a person that clearly got some intentions of creating a bit of a drama. He claims to not care about the environment at all. That he, quote: “I really don’t care about how much carbon dioxide emissions I contribute to. I don’t care that the meat industry is bad for the environment. I almost only think about myself when choosing what to eat, what to buy, when I drive to places.

You can see his full post here:

The most interesting detail in this post is his last sentence. As you can see from the screenshot, he ends his post by writing: “View has been changed. You can stop commenting

In other words. People on Reddit were actually able to change the mind of someone that did not believe in climate change.

How did they do it?  Which arguments should you use in order to convince someone that taking care of the environment is important?

Well, let us dig a bit deeper and see what we can find.

The highest ranked post – what was most important for people?

Reddit works in a way where all registered users can give a thumbs up to posts that is in some way helpful for them. In this thread, there was one post that won by far. And that was this one:

It is clear that this post is popular due to one single factor. It does not contain the common “I know better than you, and you have low IQ if you do not believe in climate change”-approach. That approach does not work. So when you simply can explain that caring about the environment is caring about other people, suddenly you have a totally different and more sympathetic way to convince someone to eat less meat and turn off the lights in a room when they leave.

“Renewable energy will save the world!!”

Another user, called “Zanzibarland”, presents a view that is slightly different:

In other words, he says that regardless of how you live your lifestyle, the carbon emissions will stay more or less the same. But he also points out that innovation within the renewable energy sector will play a significant role in saving some of the global climate change problems.

“You are selfish”

The previously-mentioned approach about attacking people and calling them names is, of course, also represented. A user with the alias “FullThrottleBooty” has a more aggressive style of approaching the topic:

This is a very common way of discussing online. In fact, it can also be quite destructive and create conflicts.

Key takeaways – what is needed to convince people about climate change?

There are some rules you should follow when you preach “climate change science”.

Looking into this, I think we found some interesting points to map out when you want to convince someone that global warming is real:

– Do not have an aggressive approach. Be kind and helpful – not tell someone that they are “so dumb not understanding this”.

– Provide proof. Be prepared to talk about science. Global warming is not a political topic. In other words: it’s not a question of whether or not to “believe” in climate change. It’s real – and you have to prove it.

– To some degree, you should tell people that not caring about your CO2 emissions is a very selfish act.

PS! As mentioned previously: these takeaways are not only based upon this single Reddit thread that I am referring to in the article. I have personally witnessed more than 100 similar discussions and taken part in a handful of them. In other words: I know what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t work.

Is it more difficult to argue with strangers?

Yes, it is. From what I have seen, people are by default quite hostile in political discussions online. They would rather want to make you feel bad instead of actually changing your opinion. I guess it’s easier when you don’t have to physically be in the same room with the person you are talking to.

That’s why changing peoples’ opinion online is a very difficult task. I’d rather say that you should try this with your uncle Bob instead of some keyboard warriors on Reddit.

Conclusion

All these posts received replies from other Reddit users. Some positive, some negative. If you browse through similar topics from other discussion forums online, you can easily start to see a pattern. Arguing or using name-calling is very seldom a good tactic if you want to convince people to take care of the environment. In other words: if you read this post because you truly want to convince people that climate change is real, I would strongly advise you to have a soft approach. Unfortunately, “taking a stand” on the climate change question has developed into a very weird political issue where people tend to take a stand and simply reject all the evidence that is coming their way.

The Reddit thread that I referred to several times in this article is also a proof that changing people’s mind is actually possible with the right approach.

2 thoughts on “101: How to change people`s mind about climate change”

  1. Avatar

    Thanks for this article.

    I was able to convince my little brother that climate change is real. That’s quite an achievement. He spent most of his time on Youtube watching Alex Jones, Ben Shapiro and other “right-winged” people who desperately tried to convince the young generation that global warming doesn’t exist. Or, that some foreign government “made up” climate change in order to get more money from the international community.

    Anyway: I think your tips are great. For my own project, I chose a bit more of an aggressive style where I literally told him that if he didn’t believe in science, he could just move out … 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Making a valid point

    This is very interesting «research», it actually shows that people are willing to listen to people when it comes to climate change. I reckon most people have already made up their mind. And especially here in UK, where I now live, I believe that most people are letting their political view decide where they belong in the “climate change debate”.

    That’s a problem. Its like seeing Donald trump: he simply cannot believe in climate change because he would make all his “coal friends” angry. An awful lot of his friends are basing their whole profit on doing things that are harmful for the environment. How can he then go around be happy about that? Its impossible

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