Hayhoe on climate change and differing morals

How do I talk about this … to my mother, brother-in-law, friend, colleague, elected official?” I’m asked this question nearly everywhere I go.

Usually, they’ve already given conversation a try. They’ve boned up on a few alarming scientific facts. They’ve tried to explain how fast the Arctic is melting, or how bees are disappearing, or how carbon dioxide levels are rising. But their attempts have fallen flat. Why? Because the biggest challenge we face isn’t science denial. It’s a combination of tribalism, complacency, and fear. Most don’t think climate change is going to affect them personally, or that we can do anything reasonable to fix it; and why would they, if we never talk about it?

It’s important to understand what’s happening to our world and how it affects us. But bombarding someone with more data, facts, and science only engages their defenses, pushes them into self-justification, and leaves us more divided than when we began. On climate change and other issues with moral implications, we tend to believe that everyone should care for the same self-evident reasons we do. If they don’t, we all too often assume they lack morals. But most people do have morals and are acting according to them; they’re just different from ours. And if we are aware of these differences, we can speak to them.

Hayhoe, Katharine. Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. 2021. p. xi-ii


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