If you're reading this, then there's a pretty good chance that you agree that climate change is a prominent threat to human beings and the entire natural world. If that's not the case, then I look forward to reading your nasty comment, which perhaps shall include a link to the Wall Street Journal's latest climate change-denying op-ed or a Rush Limbaugh radio broadcast.
Apologies if that seemed haughty, but it's tough to have patience with those who willfully deny a process that the near-entirety of the scientific community has cited as one of the gravest threats to our earth. Which brings me to today's Green Manners: approaching the topic of global warming in the company of climate change deniers.
Rule #1: Do not sarcastically refer to the WSJ's op-ed pieces or Rush Limbaugh to demean your audience.
No, I suppose I got off on the wrong foot here. There are better ways to approach climate change in polite company. See, global warming is its own breed of elephant in the room—it's not like religion, philosophy, or even politics, about which a person's views can be respected even if they're in contrast to yours. No, climate change is happening, plain and simple. But discussing global warming with climate change deniers sometimes seems like trying to convert them to Paganism. They look at you like you're crazy, maybe laugh at you, or get defensive. So how do we broach the topic?
Depends. Here are a few of the most common non-scientific qualms people have with climate change, and the suggested course of action for each:
They say there's no proof, seems plenty cold out here to me.
This is what we'll call your level one denier?they haven't given the idea much thought, and aren't overly concerned about it either way. No need to be overly forceful here. You can just quietly highlight some of the main points and perhaps refer them to a study or two—NOT An Inconvenient Truth, unless you're certain your acquaintance harbors no animosity to the ol' Gore. (More on this later) Plant a seed and don't push it—there's hope here.
They don't want to feel bad about driving their SUV, and get defensive.
Hey, my climate change accepting parents still drive an SUV. But they've recognized it's not ideal, and limit driving it to when they only need to haul a bunch of equipment or people. Even a bona fide TreeHugger drives an SUV. It's not ideal, but it's not the end of the world.
They say it's an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a group of global warming 'alarmists' who are engaged in a scheme to fabricate the apocalypse. They might also mention that we never really landed on the moon.
Walk away from this one—you're not going to make any headway here. For whatever reason, this guy's got a grudge against environmentalism in any form, and will not be swayed by logic. Just nod politely, say you disagree, and leave it be. Then make fun of him behind his back with your friends.
They say that Al Gore is a windbag.
They might also call him a hypocrite and say he's just trying to gain political power. Remind your acquaintance that climate change is not Al Gore, and that they exist independently of one another.
Got a gnawing question about green social graces? Drop us a line at etiquette (at) treehugger (dot) com.