How to Talk About Climate Change With a Denier

Use these tips to have more productive conversations about climate change.

Many of us have debated the threat of climate change with our friends, family, and strangers on the internet. But not everyone believes that anthropogenic climate change exists or views it as a problem relevant to their everyday lives. And, as we’ve seen lately in the political world, facts aren’t always enough.

Luckily, we recently invited a panel of climate scientists, a psychologist, and a couple callers to join us on Science Friday and share advice on how to have a conversation about climate change that could change a skeptic’s mind. Here are their tips:


For thermal sciences professor John Abraham, climate change’s relevance to the average person doesn’t come down to cute and cuddly animals from far-off places. It comes down to the real changes that are happening in people’s backyards.

“I will talk about wildfires in Tennessee that are affecting Americans’ lives this winter. I will talk about the drought in California, which is the worst in 1,200 years. I’ll talk about the changes to habitat for hunters, fishermen, and farmers. These people’s lives are being affected by climate change. And when you can bring the impacts to their lives, it’s a much more compelling case to be made.”


“The fact of the matter is, solar and wind production costs have dropped incredibly over the past three decades,” said Abraham. “And they’re still dropping. And they’re now almost on par with coal.

“So if we can have energy that is clean at the same price as the dirty energy, well, it’s just a no-brainer: Throw the climate change and the polar bears out the window. You just make the decision based on economics.”


“My argument that I used with my family was spinning the morals that they put on me as a child against them,” said Amber, who called in during the show. She told them: “You always told me to take care of stuff and to leave something better than what I was presented with. So if I’m presented with the earth, then I need to leave it better than as you gave it to me. And it’s my earth, so I need to take care of it.

“And if you want to throw in religion, you could also say because God created Earth. So when I presented it that way, all of a sudden, there wasn’t much of an argument.

“We take care of our earth. End of discussion.”

Comments were edited for clarity and length.

Image backgrounds via Shutterstock.

donate2

Meet the Writer

About Daniel Peterschmidt

Daniel Peterschmidt is Science Friday’s digital producer. He’s playing D&D right now and his character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

Explore More