It's Thanksgiving dinner, and you're talking to your Uncle Jeff who is skeptical about climate change. Here's how NOT to do it.

 

 

YOU

Hey, Uncle Jeff. Did you know that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming?

 

UNCLE JEFF

Of course they do! You can't get published if you don't say that global warming is happening. 

 

YOU

That's not true, and anyway, the science speaks for itself. Solar radiation passes through the atmosphere to warm the surface of the Earth. The Earth then reflects that energy back as infrared thermal radiation which is then absorbed by water vapor, methane, ozone and carbon dioxide. These gases re-radiate that energy back to the lower atmosphere-

 

UNCLE JEFF

You lost me at "infrared thermal radiation." 

 

YOU

The point is that global warming will to melt the polar ice caps, destroying polar bears' natural habitat.

 

UNCLE JEFF

I'm not a polar bear.

 

YOU

Okay, well melting ice caps will also cause the sea levels to rise, endangering countless low-lying islands in the Pacific.

 

UNCLE JEFF

Uh-huh. If the Earth is really getting warmer, then how do you explain all this cold weather?

 

YOU

Well, actually, global warming can make winters more severe. Unusually warm waters in the Atlantic travel northward to the Arctic. This excess heat destabilizes the polar vortex, weakening the jet stream-

 

UNCLE JEFF

You lost me again.

 

YOU

All I'm saying is that we need to do something about global warming.

 

UNCLE JEFF

Like what?

 

YOU

Get a Prius?

 

UNCLE JEFF

Nice try!


 


 

NOTES

 

  • It's important to show the scientific consensus around climate change, but don't bludgeon your audience with this fact. People tend to dismiss climate change because it conflicts with their values, not their understanding of science.


 

  • Don't start with the science. First, explain why climate change matters. Then explain how it works.
     
  • Avoid jargon. Use words that even a nine-year-old could understand.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Don't talk about polar bears. Climate change is a human problem that is hurting humans right now.

 


 


 

  • Remember, Uncle Jeff is American. Show how climate change will hurt Uncle Jeff and his community.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Avoid jargon. Never sound like you're reading from a textbook.

 

 

 

 




 

  • Be specific!

 

 

 

 

 

  • Climate change affects all of us. This isn't just another battleground in the culture wars. Highlight solutions that are consistent with Uncle Jeff's values.