Conversations are one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for the climate crisis. People are often more likely to trust their friends and family over experts, scientists and environmental organisations.
That said, it’s not always an easy conversation and can lead to some pretty loud arguments over the dinner table. These arguments are unproductive and often lead to people being less convinced about your climate change concerns.
So, how do you handle these conversations? The below features our guide to having conversations about climate change. It includes:
- Responses to common statements denying climate change
- A conversation cycle to guide your environmental conversations
- Climate change conversation starters
- Eco-related topics you’re likely to agree on
Responses To Common Statements Denying Climate Change
Firstly, there are a few statements that are often thrown around by people who don’t understand the full extend of climate change. Here are some answers you can use if they come up in your conversations:
- ‘Scientists don’t all agree that climate change is real’
- 97% or more of scientists do agree that climate change is happening and humans are the primary cause of it. Many politicians on the other hand are indecisive about climate change. This is worrying because many politicians are backed by the fossil fuel industry and therefore it is in their best interest to deny climate change and continue to gain from polluting industries.
- ‘Climate fluctuations have happened throughout history, this is natural and will resolve itself.’
- Yes, high levels of carbon dioxide have been released naturally in the Earth’s history. However, the changes in the climate that we are seeing today is far different than any warming or cooling humanity has seen in both rate and scale. It is occurring at 20 to 50 times the speed of most rapid climate change events in Earth’s history. The good news is though, that due to us being the ones releasing the CO2, we have the opportunity to avoid another mass extinction by phasing out fossil fuels.
- ‘It’s so cold! I don’t think the earth is warming, anyway, I like the hot weather’
- Weather and climate are two different things. Whilst weather fluctuates daily, climate is defined by long-term trends and weather averages. The last five years have been the hottest on record. Moreover, the temperatures will not increase equally around the globe. In many regions warming has already surpassed 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels. Other areas will get wetter and experience flooding and hurricanes more frequently and intensely.
- ‘Plants and animals will adapt to the changes’
- Climate changes are occurring too rapidly to allow species to adapt. Right now, with climate change not even at its fullest force, more than one million species are at risk of extinction. This is due to climate change compounding the effects of other already-existing detrimental human activities like overfishing and deforestation. Species are currently going extinct at 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction. That means we could lose 30 to 50 percent of the total species found on Earth by mid-century.
A Conversation Cycle To Guide Your Environmental Conversations
But what if the conversation falls out of those statements? How do you refrain from yelling at your grandad that climate change is very real and the future of humanity is on the line?! Well, maybe try using the Radical Conversation Cycle developed by Karen Tamerius. It goes a little like this:
- Ask – ask open-ended questions and be curious about how the other person developed their beliefs. Spend more time asking questions than making statements. Example: ‘Why do you think that climate change shouldn’t be the biggest focus for the government right now?’
- Listen – pay close attention to what they are saying and listen to understand, not to respond. Hear the values and emotions being expressed as well as the words. Example: ‘Coming out of the pandemic we need to focus on rebuilding our economy. We can’t waste resources on new energy, or rebuilding homes or planting trees.’
- Reflect – paraphrase what you heard. Name the emotions and values expressed as well as the words. Once the other person feels heard and understood, move onto the next step. Example: ‘So you feel that the best way to help our public right now is to ensure our economy recovers from the pandemic. This is likely to involve increasing jobs?’
- Agree – express agreements with one or more things the other person said. It’s usually easiest to agree on values, goals and emotions. Example: ‘I agree with you that we need to ensure we pass a thriving economy onto the future generation and we definitely need to improve job security.’
- Share – present your point of view. In general, sharing a personal story is the most memorable and persuasive way to communicate your perspective. Example: ‘The good news is that all this can be best achieved by focussing on sustainability. In 2016 the solar power industry alone generated twice more workplaces than the coal or oil industry combined. Jobs in clean energy are also better paid because solar energy supply companies are able to offer more jobs per dollar invested. Moreover, these jobs will be secure as the energy is renewable compared to the oil and gas industry which will have to end if we are to save our planet.’
Climate Change Conversation Starters
Wanting to bring up climate change in your next conversation but not sure how to do it? Here are some great conversation starters!
- What concerns you the most about climate change?
- Have you made any lifestyle changes based on climate change?
- Do you get concerned about loss of job, home and food security due to climate change?
- Do you care about the climate crisis? If so, why?
- What do you think will help slow climate change?
Eco-Related Topics You’re Likely To Agree On
On way to avoid arguments at the dinner table is to find topics you agree on. These might be some of the following:
- Wanting to pass a healthy planet onto future generations.
- Wanting to prevent extreme weather events as much as possible and be prepared for them when they do strike.
- Wanting clean air in our cities and ensuring we always have a clean water supply.
- Wanting a stable economy with lots of well-paying jobs as our world is changing.
- Caring about our Earth’s species and the health of our ecosystems.