Talk about climate change so everyone listens!

In six months libraries and schools will once again be transformed into voting stations and the Swedish people will vote for the Sweden they want for the next four years. A question that has been on politician's election programs for years is climate change. But even though researchers are convinced that humans impact the earth’s climate and have strenuously tried to get the message out, there are still individuals who deny that it’s true. How can that be and how can they be reached during the election in September – and every election after that?

Climate change deniers and those who produce and spread climate change denying material, can mostly be found on the conservative side of the political spectrum. This has several explanations. One explanation is that the issue of climate change has become perceived as a left-wing issue. This creates cognitive dissonance among those who identify themselves as conservatives, and suddenly find themselves sympathizing with people that they normally view as political enemies. Filter bubbles make this effect even stronger. Both on social media and in reality it becomes easier to reject environmental activists from the left – but unfortunately also politically neutral and well supported research. It’s hard for humans to impartially evaluate information that is ideologically charged or connected to their identity, and with that in mind it’s not strange that scientific arguments on climate change do not reach everyone.

In order to reach the whole political spectrum of voters, researchers, citizens and politicians need to work on their arguments so that they appeal to conservative values, such as: traditions, obeying authorities and patriotism.

Thus, parties which want to reach all Swedes with their environmental arguments cannot only focus on us not being able to go on our annual trip to Thailand, but also about on our children’s right to Swedish forests, that we have to make it easier to make the environmentally friendly choice without big lifestyle changes and about the possibility of spending another winter holiday skiing in Sweden’s snowy mountains.

These are things that Kirsti Jylhä discuss in the book Environment, climate change and international relations, chapter 5, "Refusing to acknowledge the problem of climate change denial".

Read Kirsti's chapter here.

Read the full book here.

If you are interested in how to create arguments aiming at people with different values, check Pontus Strimling's talk "The rise of modern values".