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Members of environmental associations hold signs as they gather to demand improvements in climate change and energy models, outside the European Commission headquarters during the presentation of the 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy EU2030 in Brussels January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Yves Herman Members of environmental associations hold signs as they gather to demand improvements in climate change and energy models, outside the European Commission headquarters during the presentation of the 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy EU2030 in Brussels January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Yves Herman  

Enviros: Use emotion, not science, to convince others of global warming

Environmentalists have had a hard time convincing Americans to fear global warming.

But fear not, climate activists, says environmentalist George Marshall. To convince people that global warming is a threat, use “your personal conviction as a friend, colleague or neighbor” to make your case — avoid using scientific arguments.

“Speak openly of your personal ownership of your convictions,” said Marshall, who founded the Climate Outreach and Information Network and is the author of the book “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.”

“Say, ‘This is what’s important to me, and this is why.’ Don’t get caught up in the scientific discussion. You’re not a scientist, and evidence doesn’t persuade people who reject climate change. What carries power is your personal conviction as a friend, colleague or neighbor.”

Marshall notes that the argument “because scientists say so” is a losing one. Research shows that a person’s view on global warming is largely formed by their social networks. Therefore, if you surround a global warming “denier” with those who believe the planet is warming, it makes it easier to change the denier’s mind.

Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol says that one way to convince people that global warming is a problem is to tell them about all the new diseases they could get if nothing is done to stem rising global temperatures.

“Mosquitoes now live at higher altitudes and spread farther from the tropics than they used to,” Lewandowsky said, “and diseases like malaria and dengue are migrating from the equator.”

Nobody wants more disease in the world, Lewandowsky argues, leading into his next argument that highlights the national security argument of global warming. People tend to take the Pentagon more seriously than climate scientists, and arguing that global warming is a national security threat, may change some minds.

“Large areas of the world will be submerged,” Lewandowsky explains, “and residents of Bangladesh and Pacific island nations won’t drown silently: They will migrate. Refugees sow the seeds for conflict.”

Why this emphasis on climate communications? It could be because there little to no evidence that the world is warming. There has been no significant warming trend in the last 17 years, and even scientists at NASA acknowledge this development.

“The trends over the last 10 to 15 years compared to the trends before do appear to be lower than they were,” Gavin Schmidt, climatologist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told reporters.

“We’ve been looking at this in separate work and partially it seems to be a function of internal variability in the system, so the fact is that we’ve had more La Nina-like conditions over the last few years compared to earlier on in the 2000s or in the late 1990s,” Schmidt added.

According to NASA, 2013 was tied with 2009 and 2006 for the seventh warmest year on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranks 2013 as the fourth warmest year on record, tying with 2003.

“Our expectations for what temperatures should be changing like, they come from our understandings of our forcings of climate change,” Schmidt said, adding that such forcings include greenhouse gases, volcanoes, solar activity and air pollution.

“Our ability to properly quantify the air pollution around the world … is actually not very good, and we have had historically a problem in defining those aerosol forcings very accurately … and that has not improved,” Schmidt admitted.

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