Talking Turkey About Climate
Without starting a food fight
Climate change has become one of those divisive, polarizing issues that confound our political system. It's often hard to even have a civil conversation with folks who disagree, even with close relatives or friends.
But it is clear that the climate crisis has arrived. And the key to solving it is educating those around us.
Chances are your friends and family fall into one of the following six categories:
- Alarmed Aunt Anna
- Concerned Grandpa Christopher
- Cautious Cousin Charlie
- Disengaged Grandma Denise
- Doubtful Brother David
- Dismissive Aunt Debbie
The way people in each category respond to the climate issue varies. If you want to have an effective conversation, the way you talk about climate with different types of people should adjust accordingly.
Alarmed Aunt Anna & Concerned Grandpa Christopher
They believe the science is real, but may doubt our ability to solve the climate crisis.
Here are a few points that may inspire them to keep up the fight:
- California—the 8th largest economy in the world—has implemented the world's most ambitious climate action plan.
- At the national level, the EPA is starting to regulate climate pollution using its existing authority under the Clean Air Act.
- The renewable energy industry is growing exponentially—in fact, the clean energy economy is growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy, and we have enough potential wind and solar energy in the U.S. to power our economy 100 times over.
Yes, this is challenging. Yes, it will take time to rebuild support for national climate action. But what choice do we have? There is no time to waste, and we need to act now.
Cautious Cousin Charlie, Disengaged Grandma Denise and Doubtful Brother David
These folks probably (and wrongly) believe that there isn't a true consensus on the science of climate change. We know that's not true, but don't go on the attack! They tend to be more open to changing their minds if they are engaged in effective conversation.
Here are some basic facts that they'll find engaging:
- Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas, and that's generally a very good thing. Without greenhouse gases, every night when the sun sets, temperatures would immediately plunge to frigid levels.
- But, we are now emitting 9 billion tons of carbon, or 30 billion tons of CO2, into the atmosphere every year, and CO2 levels have increased by about a third since the industrial revolution. If we don't reduce emissions, we could more than double the level of CO2 in the atmosphere over this century.
- Already, food growing patterns are changing, seasons are coming earlier, water resources are strained and the number of natural disasters in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years.
You don't have to accept all the science. But, if you had a health condition and 98 out of 100 doctors agreed on the diagnosis, would you base your treatment on the views of the other two?
Dismissive Aunt Debbie
The truth is, there is almost no chance of changing her mind, and it's probably not worth trying unless you like banging your head against a wall. Ironically, research shows that the more facts you try to present, the less likely she will be to agree. However, even Dismissive Aunt Debbie will be open to arguments about stimulating the economy and protecting national security.
Try steering the conversation towards those issues:
- America needs to rebuild. Did you know the clean energy sector creates 3 times as many jobs as the fossil fuel sector? We can't afford to pass up those jobs.
- Other countries are taking advantage of the economic stimulation that comes with climate action. China is testing carbon cap-and-trade markets in an area encompassing 250 million people. The U.S. needs to stay competitive.
- America's billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil from hostile nations directly funds our most dangerous enemies, putting guns and bullets into their hands and putting our soldiers in danger. It is time for America to stand strong on its own independent and in control of our energy future.
Whether climate change is real or not, the benefits of a clean energy economy are undeniable. Not only will we rid ourselves of dangerous pollution that can make us sick and even cause deaths we can finally be energy independent. What's the downside?