I’ve never met a climate skeptic (or anyone else) who wasn’t pro-environment but that doesn’t mean they have to be misanthropic nitwits like professional environmentalists
Climate change might eventually cause millions of deaths and all kinds of natural disasters. But don’t tell that to a climate-change sceptic if you want them to do anything about it.
Instead, focus on how mitigation efforts can help people become more warm and caring towards others or how it can promote economic and technological development. That’s the advice psychologists give after confirming the strategy in an experiment.
“I got the idea from mediation. When people have disputes there’s not much point convincing one party that they’re wrong,” says study leader Paul Bain, a psychologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
Bain and colleagues first took 155 climate-change sceptics and asked them how their country – Australia – would be different in 2050 if action were taken now to mitigate climate change, and how likely they would be to engage in pro-environmental activity.
Those sceptics who thought action on climate change would make people more warm and considerate, or would promote technological or political development, were more likely to have pro-environmental intentions, such as voting for green candidates or signing petitions supporting action.
One participant wrote that “if we took action it would show we do care for the environment and therefore care for the human race”.
Bain then went on to test whether telling sceptics about these “co-benefits” of climate change could affect their intentions more than telling them about the harms of inaction.
He found it did. Participants who were told about climate action’s effects on interpersonal warmth or societal development were more likely to report pro-environmental intentions than those told about the health risks of climate inaction.