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Why Climate Change Arguments Aren't Gaining Traction

Robert Dimuro

Posted on February 24, 2019 08:53

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Those who tout the imminent dangers of man-caused climate change haven't been successful in persuading the people they need to persuade.

Climate change is an issue that has been sidelined for quite some time, as Washington has been preoccupied with healthcare, Kavanaugh’s nomination, and the recent government shutdown. However, many in Congress may soon make “green” initiatives part of their agenda - rallying behind a cause that could galvanize support against Republicans and challenge Trump’s bid for reelection.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is attempting to bring climate change to the forefront of policy debate by advocating for the Green New Deal. Although the provisions in the bill have no chance of being voted into legislation by today’s Congress, she has succeeded in garnering national attention for herself despite only being a local representative and, more importantly, in spurring national conversation about climate change.

However, even if climate change becomes the next hot-button issue, history has shown that efforts to mitigate its effects have been largely fruitless. This is partly because climate change advocates aren’t persuasive in selling their position that human civilization is in imminent danger owing to our use of fossil fuels.

Scott Adams, who’s well-known for his work on the art of persuasion and for successfully predicting Trump’s presidency, has an interesting take on why climate change arguments aren’t persuasive. He categorizes these arguments into three main pitches that are persuasive to young people and are anti-persuasive to older people that have business experience. These pitches are the hockey stick graph, the use of prediction models, and the 97% scientific consensus on the certainty of man-caused climate change.

For a young person, a graph depicting immense temperature increases at an exponential rate is fear-inducing and cause for alarm. Complicated prediction models that project out for decades seem to be ironclad evidence for millennials, as they see them to be products of exemplary scientific inquiry. The 97% scientific consensus is the cherry on top that has many in my generation sold on the detrimental effects of man-caused climate change.

However, for older people with business experience, such as Scott Adams, these arguments seem to be packaged together as a classic fraud. He says the hockey stick graph, when presented at a business meeting, is a symbol for a giant lie or someone trying to sell you nonsense. He also says that businessmen are skeptical of complicated models that project decades into the future because they aren’t likely to be accurate, as has been the case with many climate change models. Lastly, he says that anyone who tells you that his/her plan has 97% approval by the experts is going to be instantly subject to scrutiny over the implausibility of that figure.

Ultimately, the people that climate change advocates must convince are our congresspeople, whose average age is about 60 years old and who represent business interests. In this light, it’s easy to see why “green” initiatives haven’t gained much traction historically. Climate scientists need to do better if they want their arguments supporting catastrophic man-made climate change to stick with Congress and the people.

Robert Dimuro

Posted on February 24, 2019 08:53

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Source: Mother Jones
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