Why does climate change evoke such strong opinions?

Today’s post is by Steph Godderidge, part of our wonderful 6Heads family.

Why does climate change evoke such strong opinions?


One of the questions that came up on the excellent FutureLearn online course ‘Our Changing Climate: past, present and future‘, offered by the Walker Institute (you can still join – it’s free) was:

Climate change evokes strong opinions and heated debates among politicians, business, students and the public. Why do you think this is? What is your view on the matter, and why?

Many people answered the ‘why’ – but I’m really more interested in the ‘how’.

As part of my job running www.climateandus.com I read a lot of articles and associated comments about climate change. I’ve also been to a few conferences on the matter and listened to IPPC scientists as well as more media-friendly people such as Sir David King and Naomi Klein.

The things that strike me most are those:

  • Online articles – on any topic – tend to polarise opinions in the extreme; everyone can be an expert when is no accountability to speak of, and the temptation is great to abuse facts and science (some of it dubious) to support whatever belief you happen to hold. As a result, there is very little middle ground.
  • The debate is stuck around apportioning blame: the scientific community is either trying to justify further funding for their research, or intent on destroying capitalism. The deniers are either idiots or minions of the fossil-fuel industry. Either way – we’re all just shouting at each other, and definitely not listening.
  • Most talks about climate change use language so obscure, and their delivery is so bland, that they make your ears bleed. Even those aiming to make the topic more accessible fail rather miserably: I recently went to see 2071 – allegedly a play, but in fact no more than a rehash of facts and figures, delivered with authority for sure, but very little life. And those talks intended for a lay audience tend to preach to the converted. I went to hear Naomi Klein talk about her new book ‘This changes everything: capitalism vs the climate’. A good speaker, and very engaging, she was unfortunately talking to the wrong audience – people who already agree with her, and some religiously so. She might as well have said nothing at all, for the difference she made.
  •  Most importantly though, we are telling the wrong story. This is not about saving the planet; it is about saving ourselves. The planet will survive, no matter what (until it implodes at some point, and becomes something else, or nothing else – but that’s another story!) Only when we start telling the RIGHT story, and make it engaging enough, will people stop bickering about the side plots, and hang around to find out not only what’s coming next, but how they can be part of it.

Steph Godderidge

6headschanging climate

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