Katharine Hayhoe (KH): “We as people have become increasingly polarized over the past two decades - not as much in Canada as in the United States... We’re becoming increasingly polarized, and climate change is one of the biggest casualties of that political polarization because one party has decided – and these are in the words of Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma, who is famous for writing a book about how climate change is the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on mankind, in his own words in 2012 he said, ‘I used to agree with you that this was real when I headed the Senate Environment Committee, until I found out how much it would cost to fix it.’
… arguing over the science (only) deepens the divide between people who are convinced that this isn’t real, not because of any scientific arguments they’ve been presented with, nor even because of any pseudo-scientific arguments they’re bringing to the table. They’ve been convinced because they can’t be who they are and agree that climate change is real. It’s an identity issue.
Social science has actually shown that arguing the science like that does end up with people who are more firmly convinced. In ‘The Years of Living Dangerously’, an excellent series on Netflix or Amazon, one of the episodes is about my friend Anna-Jean, whose father is a conservative pastor in the South-East United States, who is quite convinced that climate change isn’t real. The episode was about Anna-Jean trying to convince her father, marshalling all the evidence to convince him that yes, this is real and that as Christians we should care about it even more because it effects the poor and the vulnerable. That episode is a fantastic example of ‘the backfire effect,’ because he ended up more convinced that he was right at the end, than he was at the beginning. It’s a textbook case."
Michael Enright (ME): "Then we’re all doomed aren’t we? I mean, if you can’t present empirical data and facts and so on to someone and get them to change their minds, where do you go from there? What’s the endpoint of that?"
KH: "We’re not doomed. And that’s what I’ve spent the last ten years trying to figure out. … What I’ve learned is, talking science, science, science, isn’t what changes peoples’ minds. But what does is, first of all genuinely connecting and bonding over shared values, or shared concerns, or shared loves. So understanding whomever it is we’re talking to enough to where we can say ‘Yah, let’s talk about this thing that we both really care about, whether it’s our family, our faith, fishing, water, farming, the economy, national security, skiing … And then, sharing from the heart here’s why I’m concerned about climate change is because it effects this thing that we both agree on.
And it’s really fascinating because my friend Anna-Jean who I mentioned before with the father who’s very convinced that this isn’t real, she recently told me that they actually had a great conversation the other day where they got to the level where they were talking about their genuine fears and concerns. And she realized that on their fears and concerns, she and her Dad weren’t hardly that far apart at all. In fact they were very close. It was just where they went from those fears and concerns that ended up in completely different places.
So if we can connect on that level, which is hard to do to be honest, then at that point we can share from the heart why we are concerned, but then always, always, always bring that to solutions.
Because if we feel that there’s nothing we can do, to fix this massive global problem, our defense mechanisms psychologically is just to shut down, dissociate, disengage and deny.
Whereas if we feel like ‘Hey, did you know that in Texas so far this year we already got almost a quarter of our energy from wind? Isn’t that amazing?’ Next time I turn on my lights, I realize that’s a quarter wind, we’re doing great, let’s do more.
So there are different ways we can engage. And by talking solutions that are already in place, solutions that we can be part of, solutions that we can engage in in our daily lives ourselves – one of those big solutions just being simply talking about this issue – because hardly anybody ever does, we feel like we’re part of the solution. And that actually changes our perspective on the issue too."
The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright “Donald Trump versus the climate: a conversation with Katharine Hayhoe.” Sunday April 30, 2017