What effective approaches have you found for communicating with those skeptical about the realities of climate change?
Establish a respectful relationship; focus on common, observable problems; avoid hot-button words and phrases that will set off automatic, identity-confirming responses; and realize that it takes time to communicate. There is no magic bullet. I have been “debating” this issue with a conservative neighbor for years. All the while, we have been building a relationship based on mutual respect and shared interests (dogs, kids). Recently, standing in several feet of snow with our dogs, I asked if he thought the weather was changing in Massachusetts—he did. What did he think we should do about it? His answer was shocking. He said we all needed to drive and consume less.
Dr. Frances Bigda-Peyton, Bedford, MA
My husband and I have visited Glacier Bay and Athabasca Glacier twice: once 25 years ago and once last year. We took pictures both times. I show these pictures to those who deny climate change and they have to admit there is definitely a change. Many still say it is not human caused, but all admit there is a change. That's one step in the right direction!
Bonnie Simms, Hammock, FL
Experienced gardeners know something is happening. Growing seasons are lengthening, there are new pests (both flora and fauna), and rain events are more severe. Gardeners know this from their own experience and while it might be nice to plant pansies in the fall, which would have been foolish years ago, it makes folks nervous. If you speak to people's actual experience, they listen.
Conni Gratop Lewis, Charleston, WV
Avoid ineffective confrontational disagreements by using "Yes, and..." and "Like you, I…" statements that emphasize connections and agreement. For instance, "Yes, the climate has changed in the past, and that's precisely why we should be concerned now." Or, "Like you, I want to keep the American economy strong, and that's why we need to start addressing climate change now."
Todd Mitchell, Fort Collins, CO
Swap out the natural gas water heater, which cannot be run clean and carbon-free, for an electric version that can, either with rooftop solar or grid electricity powered by renewables. Swap out that gasoline car, which cannot be made zero-emissions, for an electric car that can.
Doug McKenzie, Palo Alto, CA