Climate change communications research suggests that a person’s views are formed in large part by their social network. When a climate change rejectionist finds he is surrounded by believers, it eases the path toward changing his mind. Say that you, too, were once reluctant to accept the idea of climate change. It helps your audience identify with you.
Now you’ll need a compelling argument to explain why you came around. As Marshall notes, communications research shows that “because scientists say so” is a loser. (President Obama made this mistake last week in his State of the Union address, when he bluntly declared that “climate change is a fact.”)
. . . First, frame it as a risk-management issue. We aren’t really a society of believers and deniers on climate change; our opinions exist on a spectrum. Maybe you’re 90 percent sure that climate change is real, while your neighbor sets the probability at just 20 percent. A disagreement over numbers is easier to discuss than a fundamentally different set of worldviews. Even if there’s only a 20 percent chance of rising sea levels, intensifying storm systems and crop failure, we ought to take steps to mitigate the risk. After all, your house probably won’t burn down or flood, but you still have homeowners insurance.”