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Climate Change And The Skeptics


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Greetings from Arizona, for my first post i figured i would ask a useful question and examine how some of you would react to this certain situation.

I am a massive gun enthusiast so naturally i tend to be affiliated with groups who are pro second amendment. A trend that i often see is that most of

these members genuinely think that climate change is one big hoax set up by Al Gore. How do you interact with people who firmly think climate change is 

a non issue, do you attempt to convey some of your thoughts to them or is it hopeless? There is a lot of pseudo science that they will use to 

defend their position, which makes it even harder to make them look at any viable evidence. Feel free to share any thoughts and opinions.  


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Yes, that's a problem, and we have quite a bit of experience in dealing with it around here.


The most important thing I've learned in these interactions is that it really comes down to an issue of folks that deny Climate Change only trust "facts" from a very limited set of sources, usually only folks who show up on Fox News or other Conservative media. The most common reaction I get in such debates is an instant "where did you get those facts?" And if it's one of the sources that are associated with "liberal thought" or "Al Gore" then the "facts" can be dismissed out of hand.


The problem with trying to argue the facts themselves is that they are complicated. It is remarkable that the argument "see it's cold outside! Must be global cooling!" along with "Liberals are always blaming any hot weather on Global Warming" really is all that's necessary to create an epistemic closure around the notion that there is no Climate Change.


Even simple arguments around trying to describe the difference between climate and weather are hard to understand, and create cognitive dissonance because they've heard from "their" media the "fact" that "for the last 18 years the average temperature has been going down!" Which actually is not true, but is hard to show because the cherry picked graphs show a segment or two going down. Trying to explain that the statistics show differently and that the longer time scales are more significant requires some thinking about numbers that they just don't want to do.


At it's core though is a very long-term practice of questioning authority of scientists with what is basically Goebel's "Big Lie": you repeat something often enough and people will incorporate it into their thinking. Conservatives tend to mistrust all science because they've been told that scientists are wrong about so many things, and since they mostly get paid by the government or government grants, anything they come up with is probably unduly influenced by liberal-leaning government officials.


It's that last point that comes into play when you mention that 97% of all climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and is caused by man, with a large chunk of the remaining 3% agreeing it's happening but not completely convinced it's man made (but not saying it's not either, it's just that they're unsure), followed by a tiny fraction of people who are either crackpots who happen to have PhDs or are genuinely paid off by the oil and gas industry.


Now people come in all stripes. Obviously I'm a "librul" on this and many other topics, but I actually am a registered Republican and I am a dedicated NASCAR fan. My dad lives in Arizona, watches too much Fox News, thinks the government and unions are evil, but does not like guns and is for moderate action on climate change because the Defense Department and some very big companies are taking it very seriously


The bottom line is that everyone you talk to you need to treat differently, and if they're just plain not listening because at the core, they just don't trust science, then it's best to start with talking up science on less contentious issues and try to work your way over once they get engaged with how science works, and start to see that it's not all some liberal conspiracy against everything they hold dear. I've found that this really is an issue of familiarity and trust, and very much NOT logic: no matter how logical a person is, if the facts are tainted by being associated with things that they hate or that are threatening, no amount of logic-violating cognitive dissonance will get them to "see the truth" because it's not about truth but about being foreign and associated with bad people.


It's also important to recognize that this has little to do with intelligence or mental ability: it's all about socialization and discomfort and going along with one's friends and peers. It's really interesting to watch my dad who's very outgoing, really clam up when the subject of Climate Change comes up around his friends: he knows that he'll be ostracized for his "liberal" views, even though in reality he's one of the more conservative folks you'll ever meet. He's got two degrees from Stanford so you can't call him dumb or incapable of holding his own in an argument, but he knows that these arguments aren't about facts or logic, just what the social group has decided is "the way things obviously are."


This is a big topic and I've just scratched the surface here, so feel free to carry on. And welcome to Hypography! :cheer:



Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened, :phones:


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Thank you for that response that was very well said. 

You hit the nail on the head when you said that the facts of climate change can indeed be complicated and that plays a role in the misunderstandings people have.

It reminds me of when Bill O'reilly said " we dont understand why the tides come in and go out", Shortly after Dr. Tyson said, " I don't think he knows enough physics

to be able to tell us what it is that we don't understand yet".



If you can demonstrate the error correcting mechanisms that science delivers in less complex scenarios; it might make a few of them reconsider their views of science. 

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