Friday, May 17, 2013

So What Will Change Their Minds?

A long-time commenter here writes:
"David, you should explain for everyone how it should be done. It is easy to criticize, but what's the solution for the communication?"
I don't think it's really a problem of communication....

100 years of consensus on evolution hasn't changed half of Americans' minds.

So why will a decade or two of climate data?

I don't like this, but it's a fact. I really wish everyone was amenable to data and scientific papers, but in America many people are not. They aren't.

Perhaps it's because our education system is mediocre. I also suspect there is some failing in our national character, something about being independent and revolutionary and adventurous and skeptical of institutions.

Why will global warming be any different? For whatever reason, a lot of Americans simply don't care what scientists think, and this problem is getting worse, not better.

And if not worse, not clearly better.

So what will change their minds?

More warming, more heat waves, more droughts, more storms.

When grandfathers say to their grandchildren, when I was a kid it was a lot colder and snowier, and it seems like all that is gone now.... When midwestern farmers accept the seriousness of the drought they are in, and when they leave the business because of it. When snowpacks diminish enough that people actually leave the American southwest because its water can't support them any longer.

Like I said, I don't like this. But I think it's the case.


Victor Venema said...

I think there is a difference. Polls apparently show that many people do not think that almost all climate scientists agree that the global temperature is increasing due to human influence. Thus for them this is news, if they take notice.

I would be very surprised if the creationists would also think that science is undecided whether creation or evolution is right.

What will change their minds? Their mind is already changing. Polls show that more and more people are accepting the science. In the latest PEW poll of March 2013, nearly seven-in-ten Americans say they believe there is solid evidence of global warming. This number is increasing since 2009.

Next to storms, the opinion of respected persons, family, friend and neighbours is important.

And maybe one should communicate that you can accept the basic science without having to hold the opinion that all cars have to be shredded. Even after accepting the science, you can still debate how big a stressor climate change will become and what the disadvantages (and further advantages) of mitigation and adaptation measures are.

Victor Venema said...

It may be easier to change your mind on climate change as on evolution.

You do not have to think that you grandpa was a monkey and you can still see yourself as a religious person. Somehow these problems do not exist in Europe, but still evolution is more of an identity issue as climate change.

Dano said...

David, you were harrumphing about the communication method. That must mean you have a better plan. What is it?

Or is it the case that we can't adapt and we are in for a huge population correction and all of this matters little?



Anonymous said...

Just to use your example of drought. In (important, populated parts of) Australia there was an ~10 year drought. This was tauted as the new climate norm. Then it stopped droughting, it rained. Then people realised that Australia didn't have a new climate norm they just remembered that Australia was a land where it droughted and then stopped droughting. The same will be true of SW USA. And you ask why people struggle with the message!

(apologies for using a noun as a verb)

MikeH said...

Anonymous - you are wrong. Both these articles from climate scientists were written well after the end of the drought.

"Our recent research in the internationally peer-reviewed Journal of Climate shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of heat wave days for most of the country from 1951-2008."

"However something significant happened to rainfall in the southwest of Australia in the second half of the twentieth century. The observational data shows a sustained 10-20% drop in winter time rainfall, starting in the late 1960s. Two decades later, a similar sustained reduction in rainfall occurred during autumn and winter in the southeast. This represents a significant change in the seasonality of southern Australian rainfall. Drying during the regular growing season is now apparent across large tracts of the southern agricultural zones."

Facts trump climate cranks ranting on right-wing blogs.

sylas said...

On persuasion... you never persuade *everyone*.

My approach is to simply keep providing good information; and some folks do benefit from it.

Furthermore, there are a whole suite of details for which there are widely held views with no actual foundation in reality. David has alluded to this in recent posts; noting that there are all kinds of complexities. This is true,

My approach is to deal with issues one at a time as the occasion demands or opportunity arises. I honed this approach over many years in the evolution creationism area; and I have a modest record of success in the sense that I periodically find out (sometimes years after the fact) that I've helped someone shake loose of the nonsense.

One issue amongst many that is well worth tackling is the notion that there's a lot of dispute in the world of science over whether humans are causing global warming. That simply isn't true. There's only a very small amount of dispute on that point with working scientists. Active researchers -- even the tiny minority of skeptics who are actually working as scientists on the subject -- are well aware that anthropogenic factors are now considered the most significant drivers by all but a small fraction of researchers.

So I confess I didn't get David's objection (if I read this blog right) with publishing data helping demonstrate this. It *is* a useful point on which many are flatly mistaken and for which a proper debunk is appropriate.

It's not an attempt to resolve all the issues! No research ever is that. So I confess I found David's objections distinctly odd.

Unknown said...

When enough people died of lung cancer, people's parents, children or loved ones, the message about smoking got across.

But you will still get those who declare they do not agree.

For millenia, humans never seemed to realise that crap, urine and drinking water should not be adjacent. But the "penny dropped" there, too.

Things will inexorably change on climate, too, ... question is: how long?

John Brookes said...

When insurers start refusing insurance for properties to close to the sea, then people will start taking climate change seriously. Unless government steps in and uses tax payers money unwisely.