The author of the book "Global Warming Primer,” Jeffrey Bennett, breaks the climate change discussion down to logic, using two facts and a conclusion:
1. Fact: Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, by which we mean a gas that traps heat and makes a planet (like Earth or Venus) warmer than it would be otherwise.
2. Fact: Human activity, especially the use of fossil fuels — by which we mean coal, oil, and gas, all of which release carbon dioxide when burned — is adding significantly more of this heat-trapping gas to Earth’s atmosphere.
3. Inevitable Conclusion: We should expect the rising carbon dioxide concentration to warm our planet, with the warming becoming more severe as we add more carbon dioxide.
I buy that. Seems simple enough to follow, so why doesn’t everybody else buy that? Logic was my favorite class in college, and the logic here summarizes the science I was learning. But in his Fast Company article, Per Epsen Stoknes suggests that when the rational argument doesn’t work, we should embrace the irrational mind.
He suggests that people respond better when the message is localized. Charts showing global numbers and facts don’t persuade people as much as relating the problem to local situations. In Maryland’s anti-fracking campaign, I think it was successful partially because people could visualize some of the local problems that would have occurred in the western counties targeted for fracking.
His other suggestions such as keeping the message positive and not making people feel guilty make a lot of sense. He suggests that people respond to peer pressure and react positively when they see and hear about what others are already doing. That leads to government leaders responding accordingly and stopping from obstructing efforts to stop climate change.
I need to change my 3-minute elevator speech. I thought I could persuade people about the perils of relying on non-sustainable energy sources with a couple of simple facts about carbon dioxide. I won’t stop using logic, but I will try to be more cognizant of the psychological reasons why many people resist accepting the reality of climate change.