Finding Common Ground in the Climate Debate
Though more and more Americans are expressing belief in climate change, many still deny that it exists or is a serious threat. According to a new study, people on opposite sides of this debate are united on one thing: a dislike for one another. This makes meaningful dialogue between the two groups difficult – especially when the conversation is about climate science.
As this Washington Post article points out, there’s no room for compromise on the scientific facts, but it is possible to find common ground on solutions. Even if someone doesn’t believe carbon emissions are causing climate change, they can appreciate the benefits of wind and solar power: cleaner air, safer water supplies, and greater energy independence, to name a few. The two sides can also find commonality on shared values (fairness, compassion) and identities (parent, churchgoer, business executive). To learn more about engaging people on climate solutions, download our report, Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication.
Chris Mooney, Contributor to The Washington Post
For a long time, people have been using words like “polarizing” and “partisan” to describe the debate over climate change. Last week, I added “brutal and dysfunctional” to the descriptive pile.
But according to new research just out in Nature Climate Change, it may be even worse than that. The new study, by a group of Australian psychologists and social scientists, examines the clash between climate adherents and so-called “skeptics” as an “intergroup conflict” (a psychological buzzword) driven, in significant part, by anger at those on the other side.
Or to put it another way, the debate is a cultural clash between two groups with divergent social identities who define those identities, in part, by criticizing those on the other side.
“Believers and sceptics [sic] are united, but only insofar as they are united in opposition to each other,” notes the paper, whose lead author is Ana-Maria Bliuc of Monash University in Victoria.
Image credit: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz