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Stop making sense: why it’s time to get emotional about climate change

Stop making sense: why it's time to get emotional about climate change

The science has been settled to the highest degree, so now the key to progress is understanding our psychological reactions

It took me much longer than it should have to realise that educating people about climate change science was not enough. Due perhaps to my personality type (highly rational, don’t talk to me about horoscopes, please) and my background (the well-educated daughter of a high school teacher and an academic), I have grown up accepting the idea that facts persuade and emotions detract from a good argument.

Then again, I’m a social scientist. I study people. I deal mostly in feelings, not facts. A joke I like to tell about myself during speeches is that I’m an expert in the opinions of people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Over the 15 years I’ve been a social researcher, I’ve watched with concern the increasing effects of climate change, and also watched as significant chunks of the electorate voted for political parties with terrible climate change policies.

There is clearly a disconnect between what people say they are worried about and want action on and who, when given the chance, they pick to lead their country.

The science behind climate change has been proven correct to the highest degree of certainty the scientific method allows. But climate change is more than just the science. It’s a social phenomenon. And the social dimensions of climate change can make the science look simple – the laws of physics are orderly and neat but people are messy.
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