CNN reporter John Sutter is doing something quite novel in today’s media: he’s traveling to Oklahoma to understand how people skeptical of man-made global warming think.
At a time when activists and even climate scientists are refusing to debate skeptics in the media, and news outlets are excluding skeptical perspectives from letters, op-eds and news stories, Sutter is looking to “understand where they’re coming from” and “to lend an open, honest ear, to hear their stories, and to get a better sense of why this issue continues to divide too many of us.”
Sutter will travel to Woodward County, Oklahoma — the most skeptical county in the U.S., according to pollsters — and spend the week talking to global warming skeptics. About one-third of people in Woodward County say global warming isn’t happening, and of those who say it is happening, about 42 percent say it’s not man-made.
“It would be far easier to pretend climate skepticism doesn’t exist in the United States — but that also would be untrue,” Sutter wrote, going against the mantra shared by many activists that skeptics should be shunned.
“My hunch — and my hope — is that by talking with skeptics, and by honestly listening to their life stories and points of view, there will be something to learn about how we can move on as a country together,” Sutter added. “I’m a person who believes swift action is needed to blunt the potentially devastating effects of climate change. But I also understand that not everyone sees it that way. I’m genuinely curious to try to understand how the ‘other side’ thinks.”
Sutter’s plan to talk to skeptics for a week was not welcomed by the so-called “warmist” community — those who believe global warming is man-made and will be catastrophic if carbon dioxide emissions aren’t reduced.
“Polls show most people get it, overall, so I think we need to shift the conversation to solutions,” said Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard University history professor who wrote the book “Merchants of Doubt,” which claims skeptics are using tobacco industry tactics to spread global warming denial.
“Fussing about (honest) skeptics seems to me to be basically barking up the wrong tree,” she said.
“Engagement of so-called skeptics is ill-advised,” Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Bristol in the UK, told Sutter. “It is a hopeless task to try to talk to them and change their minds.”
Lewandowsky recently got a paper republished on the “the role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial” after it was initially retracted over concerns it exposed the journal it was published in to defamation suits. It was recently republished in another academic journal.
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