Helen De Cruz has some excellent suggestions for how to talk to creationists given that neither debate nor denouncement are likely to be productive. She describes the way in which a religious person who is not a creationist can speak to another religious person who is a creationist, e.g., by pointing out that Biblical literalism is a recently emerged approach, one that may be impossible to apply consistently, and for that reason among others it may not be thoroughly used by anyone.
This article by Dan Kahan suggests that disbelief in human-caused climate change is like belief in creationism in this respect: What people "believe" about each doesn't reflect what they know, but rather expresses who they are. This supports the thesis that providing evidence for creationism isn't likely to change minds and that providing evidence for climate change isn't likely to change minds, either.
But what is the climate change equivalent, where we speak to people from their own perspective as Helen proposes that we do for religious people who are creationists?
I think we can all agree, as Kahan points out, that an antagonistic approach is doomed to failure. Very few people respond to antagonistic approaches.
Kahan further suggests, along lines similar to Helen's, that we don't make climate change deniers choose between their "scientific" beliefs and their views about who they are – what Kahan calls their cultural identity, or the group that they identify with. To be honest, though, I am not sure what cultural group that climate change deniers are in (some subset of Republicans?). And his specific proposal seems to be that we emphasize adaptation and mitigation strategies. But that can only be part of the plan; we have to reduce our production of greenhouse gases, too, one way or another.
Similarly, I have seen people emphasize that climate change threatens our national security, which is no doubt true. But it seems a bit remote to work as a motivator for change.
Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have pointed out that those who have deliberately sought to undermine belief in human-caused climate change have done so in part by appealing to people's beliefs about freedom, i.e., by claiming that those who are warning about climate change are really just trying to take away your freedoms (to drive gas guzzling vehicles, for example?). Is there a way to turn this approach around to promote the view that we need to take action to avoid climate change?
In my very first post to this blog, I pointed out that we might think of climate change as the issue that trumps all other issues – the thing you should care about regardless of what else you might care about. (A sort of "keystone" value). To quote myself shamelessly: "...we can expect more droughts, more food shortages, more loss of coastal lands, more extreme storms, more loss of species, more disease. If you care about economic issues, this ought to concern you. If you care about world unrest, then this ought to concern you. If you care about how low income individuals will fare, this ought to concern you. If you care about health care, this ought to concern you. And if you think that civil liberties and civil rights, already under pressure, will be maintained in the face of these challenges, this ought to concern you."
But I don't know if that works as a strategy, either. Thoughts?