Can I Change Your Mind About Climate Change?

Last night ABC screened a documentary titled "I Can Change Your Mind About... Climate."

The story pitched climate change skeptic Nick Minchin against Anna Rose.

Anna Rose and Nick Minchin 

Nick Minchin - Liberal Senator for South Australia from 1993 until 2011. He served as a Minister in the Howard Government for 10 years, and was a member of Cabinet for 9 years. He has degrees in Economics and Law from the ANU

Anna Rose - Co-founder and Chair of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and is a former Environment Minister’s joint Young Environmentalist of the Year. Previously, Anna worked with the National Union of Students and holds a degree in Arts and Law.

Is this a debate about science or political ideology?

The documentary was entertaining, mostly thanks to the interesting mix of guests they had on. 

Anthony Leiserowitz (Yale University) made some very interesting points about people's view on climate change and their broader values. They did research which classified Americans into about 6 distinct groups in the 'climate change debate.' The groups themselves are roughly what you would expect, but here's the interesting part:

So, for instance, the alarmed and the concerned, the people who are most concerned about climate change, tend to have very strong what we would call egalitarian values. They're very concerned about social justice, environmental concerns around the world, the impact on other people, places and fairness is really a core value.

The doubtful and the dismissive however are what we call strong individualists, strong almost libertarians. They often have a very anti-government view, believe that the government should get out of our lives and should, you know, have as little interference in society as possible.

I think this is telling. The vast majority of people (and I would include myself in this group) simply do not have enough information at hand to have a strong position on climate change. Sure, it's a fun topic to debate at the pub. But all you're really doing most of the time is teasing out people's underlying political ideology, not a coherent and robust position on climate change.

Is this really a 50:50 debate?

Another interesting guest on the show was Ben Goldacre (The Guardian, Bad Science, etc). Thankfully, he had a good sense of humour:

I would literally rather slam my cock in the door than get involved in having arguments around climate change.

His main gripe is about the poor standard of coverage of science in the media, which I wholeheartedly agree with. He made some further interesting points about how any debate in the media generally favours climate change deniers:

People who are climate change deniers get kind of equal footing because I think journalists can't be bothered to research it adequately and communicate it adequately themselves so what they think they will do is they will just kind of triangulate the truth, we'll get one person on one side and one person on the other side and they can just sort of have a fight.

So, can I change your mind about climate?

Back to the point: can I change your mind about climate?

Well I don't really want to and, more importantly, I don't need to.

There is something that we can all agree on. Whether or not you are interested in climate change, resource dependance or sustainability more broadly, I bet I can get you to agree that energy efficiency is a good idea.

It saves money, it improves energy security and it is cheaper to 'use' than any other source of fuel (fossil or renewable).

Too bad it's boring and uncontroversial.

- Ryan McCarthy.

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