The Key to Engaging Conservatives on Climate Change Issues
Much has been written about the partisan divide on climate – conservatives are far more likely than liberals or moderates to express doubt about climate change or oppose climate action. If we are to build widespread, mainstream support for climate solutions, we’ll need to get conservatives on board – but how?
This Washington Post article shares the insights of two high school teachers in very conservative communities who used former Vice President Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth to teach their students about climate. This caused an extremely negative reaction from some students and many parents. However, the first teacher found that if he presented the same material without the political connection, he had no trouble. The second teacher had success by switching to a data-first approach that let students come to scientific conclusions on their own.
The lesson? Avoid framing climate change in political terms. Our own research has found that how “top of mind” a person’s political identity is affects how that person receives climate messages. When Republicans are reminded that they are Republicans, for example, they report more skepticism. But their other core identities – such as parent or businessperson – may be far less polarizing. Appealing to those aspects of their identity is much more likely to make them receptive to climate solutions.
Valerie Strauss, Contributor to The Washington Post
The National Center for Science Education is a non-profit organization with some 5,000 members that provides information and resources for schools, parents, and concerned citizens working to keep evolution and climate science in public school science education. The center originally devoted its energies to fighting efforts by some schools to teach creationism alongside evolution, but in 2012 started an initiative to defend and support the teaching of climate change to fight climate change denial as well as confusion and misunderstanding of what is happening to the planet’s climate and why.
On its website Minda Berbeco, a climate change scholar, writes about teaching climate change. Below she writes about how to teach climate change in a conservative community. Berbeco was a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California Davis who conducted research studies on climate change and agriculture. An expert on the carbon cycle and climate change, she has taught, written, and presented talks on the effects of climate change on forests and carbon and nitrogen cycling. The following first appeared on the NCSE website and I am republishing it with permission.
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