Climate change is real and happening now. The vast majority of scientists are agreed on this. Measurements show that the global average temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1850 – and scientists expect that it will probably continue to rise by two to four degrees Celsius this century.

The consequences of global warming can already be seen and felt. Arctic sea ice is shrinking, melting glaciers are causing sea levels to rise and extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods are more common because of climate change. Yet, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, there are still people who doubt the science.

Climate scepticism is a broad tent. Sceptics range from those who deny any temperature rise at all, to those who acknowledge climate change is happening but consider it a natural phenomenon. However, even if there has always been climate change, scientists agree: the global warming we are witnessing today is largely caused by humans. In particular climate change is being driven by burning fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum, which humans use as a source of energy, and which releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which cause climate change.

In the EU there are fewer climate deniers than in the USA and China, though in recent years climate scepticism has also grown in Europe. Climate scepticism is particularly widespread in right-wing populist parties in Europe, which have made climate denial one of their main themes.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Chris, who thinks the problem is that climate change has become such a partisan issue. He says people believe climate change is a hoax simply “because they are right-wingers”, and right-wingers are expected to naturally be climate sceptics. Would making climate change more bipartisan help convince climate sceptics to take it seriously?

To get a response, we put this question to Jytte Guteland, a Swedish MEP who sits with the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) Group. She is a member of the Environment Committee and rapporteur for the European Climate Law, which would set a legally-binding target for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050. How would she respond to Chris?

Yes, I think it’s important that we don’t divide it up in a partisan way. I think it’s important that we know it’s about all of us: it’s about survival; it’s about our planet; it’s about preventing crises in the future and now.

On the other hand, I think that we have different values ​​in the different political parties, and we see the way we live differently. And, of course, if you have a very free market or a very conservative point of view, you might think that the state should not intervene. That could be a problem when it comes to climate policy, because today it is necessary for the state and the EU to intervene. I don’t think the market can solve climate change by itself.

We really need to work together as a society. I think that could prevent some conservatives and some free market parties from being as active as they should be. But, of course, that does not apply to all (conservatives), I know that many in the conservative faction are really pro-sustainability, so I think if we get together it will be possible.

Next up, Aris thinks the timescale of climate change is a problem for convincing people to take it seriously. He says “humans care what happens today, they don’t care what will happen 50 years from now because most of them will be dead.” Would drawing a stronger link between climate change and extreme weather events today help convince climate sceptics?

We put this comment to Lena Puttfarcken, a science journalist whose focus is on effectively communicating about the climate crisis and on countering science denial. What would she say?

I think this is really important, because if people think about climate change as a problem for the future, as something that will only happen in 50 years time, then they are really wrong. Because we are already seeing the forest fires in the USA and Australia, and also the cold weather that we currently have in Germany is something that will occur more frequently with climate change.

Climate change is already a problem. If more people realised what climate change is already doing to our environment, our world, and the way we live in it, then perhaps some people would be convinced that we have to do something about climate change now and not wait until it’s really bad. Because it’s bad now and it’s only going to get worse. So, I think it would help to show that the consequences are immediate and that they are already happening. But I don’t think we can convince everyone with this argument. I think we can convince some people, but not all.

What does Jytte Guteland think?

Thank you, Aris, for that comment. I really believe there is a connection like the one you described; I think some people believe that climate change is very far away and we are going to have a big crisis at some point in the future. They don’t see that this is something that’s happening right now. But recent reports show that extreme weather is linked to climate change. And we have seen multiple reports over the past few years that not only show how today’s extreme weather is related to climate change, but also that in maybe 10 years we could have a very serious problem in countries that were previously unaffected. That’s because of the ice in the Arctic and other climate-related phenomena that are causing the oceans to rise, and this will soon have an impact in many countries.

So, I think we could make this connection clearer and describe it more often so that people understand it. And I think that now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, people know that the way we live is fragile and that things can change and we can be forced to change the way we live – and we don’t want to. We want sustainable change. A change where we can make sure everyone is on board, where we have a democratic process where nobody becomes the loser in this situation. So, it’s about sustainable change for both the climate and people. And to do that, as you say, we have to show people that it is happening now.

Finally, Julia thinks the problem is interest groups aggressively lobbying against sustainability. She says: “Some people think climate change is a hoax because people serving or profiting from the resource industry say so. They obviously do not want people to stop buying their resources and convert to green energy.” Would highlighting links between climate scepticism and the fossil fuels lobby help convince sceptics?

Thank you, Julia, for that comment, because I’ve also thought about it. And I also thought about the climate sceptic movement in the US around former President Trump and also about the fossil fuel connection that he stands for and the fossil fuel economy that he got money from and is part of. I really believe this is a very strong bond, actually.

The fossil fuel economy is big, of course, but there are some companies that will be harder hit by the change, and of course they are trying to work in different ways. And not all, but some might further these stories and this non-belief in science that we see on the internet. And I really believe there is a connection.

It’s not between everyone, so we shouldn’t associate it with every company that has benefited from fossil fuels. Of course, there are those who understand how serious it is and understand that they are a part of it, and maybe even try to change. But there are also some with the connection you are describing. I really think that, for democratic reasons, it is very important to always try to have a democracy that is as transparent as possible and to really try to explore the connections between people, between politicians, between economies. That is why we should show in the European Parliament who we are meeting, and why we have a transparency register to show who we are meeting when we are responsible for a piece of legislation. And I think we need more of that. It’s a way of preventing what you’ve described and pointing out the connections that can hinder a sustainable future.

How can we convince climate sceptics? Is the problem that climate change has become such a partisan issue? Is the timescale of climate change a problem for convincing people to take it seriously? Or is aggressive lobbying from the fossil fuel industry to blame? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts!

Image Credits: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash. Portrait: © European Union 2021


23 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think

  1. avatar
    Chris

    Lead by example, stop using private jets and living in mega mansions. E. G bill Gates and others are super polluters but lecture everyone on what “they” should do. Don’t tell everyone that they have to stop flying, driving or rating meat whilst doing all of those to excess. Stop using kids with no life experience of the hard left Marxists to champion your cause or it will be largely ignored. The preachy, upper middle class superiority will work about as well with climate change as it did brexit in the UK. Come up with sensible but practical solutions then great. A good example being not to force everyone into electric cars whilst they are mega expensive for anything better than an electric skateboard, range is terrible, re charging is too slow and the infrastructure isn’t there. Deliver good and well priced stuff that works and people will change. Same with electricity, make it mega expensive to change or unreliable then it won’t happen

  2. avatar
    John

    Use Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundation theory – try to find out why the person is a denialist and frame arguments around those values. Individuals will subconsciously resist facts that threaten their defining values.

  3. avatar
    Michał

    Here are a few suggestions:I believe global warming exists, but first and foremost, most of the “solutions” The davos and UN crowds are trying to sell are laughable. Carbon trading is like the old Vatican tradition of selling tickets to heaven. Electric cars? How about minimizing the need for cars in the first place? Where are you going to find lithium to power all those batteries? What do you plan to do with defunct “green” infrastructure?Moreover, why do all the climate change evangelists fly around on personal jets?Also, here is a big one: Anyone who claims, in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus, that a human life doesn’t begin at conception has no business lecturing anyone else about morality or science. Especially since “over population” is often given as a reason for pollution, it makes you look evil and dishonest.And if the billionaires really believe that the world is overpopulated, I don’t see them leading by example in that department either.

  4. avatar
    Michał

    Also, I forgot, when Davos Gretchen goes around telling Kids to blame their parents for global warming, it really looks like the environment is just a pretext for some weird and dubious social engineering.

  5. avatar
    Karel

    You write “Climate change is real” and doing so deny any argumentation regarding the opposite. European democracy these days…

    • avatar
      John

      Karel Van Isacker When the evidence for climate change is so overwhelming, it just gets absurd to entertain the so-called “sceptics”. It’s like having to put the caveat “we’re 99% sure gravity exists” or “we’re 99% sure the Moon landing happened” or “we’re 99% sure about germ theory”.. You get the idea. It’s so obvious the scepticism is driven by ideology, rather than any rigorous understanding of the science. Just take a look at the US – you can usually tell someone’s political affiliation by whether or not they “””””question””””” the climate science.

  6. avatar
    Olivier

    Climate always changed in the earth history. Part of this change is not related to human kind activity

  7. avatar
    Yannick

    Nope. Sceptics will remain sceptics. There are always laggards, history moves on without them. If they were given a voice we would still have slavery.

  8. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Ok then, let’s continue to expose more EU innocent journalism & their agenda:

    Q: Who is the “we”?
    My guess: the EU/FoE/DE & all none climate skeptics- from the most to the least educated and informed folks.

    Q: What has or will be achieved when the “we” achieved their goal & convinced the rest?
    My guess: Nothing or very little, except the “we” can announce “we” won an argument & routed all others. Like a Sunday’s soccer match- a 27:0 drubbing! Jubilation! The EU politicians are given another free hand to sell more of our H-rights.

    Climate shifts, climate change, or global warming, or cooling will continue. Research, investment & implementation into renewables will continue. Maybe the arguments for & against such narrative might peter out- like Covid-19 & Co. Politicians will make questionable & secrete deals.

    More importantly: whatever happens eventually, each voter should have some local (political) input on what National or EU politicians will finally decide on our behalf.

    I would be very upset when our vested “HR” to our access to energy is privatized and exorbitant tariffs & conditions forced upon us in secrete & without options.

    Ownership of public utilities has to be left in public hands & not allowed to become another profit target by luring taxpayers into a false belief- “private is better than the public”! Both private & public are “cooking with the same rainwater, the same sun rays or wind” & employ similar humans (or less) to run these entities.

    May I remind the “we”- that:

    “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948 recognizes rights such as that of life, food, health, education, etc. being deeply linked with access to energy services. … Goal 7 “Affordable and clean energy” aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy to all by 2030.”

    Translated into clear “EU language” & its agenda: Please not another secrete but obsolete TTIP. Please do not sell our HR to Private Companies!
    Not water, not energy, not our political nor human rights!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transatlantic_Trade_and_Investment_Partnership

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_privatization

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228432980_Public_or_private_water_management_Experience_from_different_European_Countries

  9. avatar
    Fabrizia

    Can some mathematician or scientist or analyst make a studio for each states of the UE of deaths due to climate change, in an arch of a limited years and cost in terms of money for floods/resources cost/climate temperature/cancer etc not only as generic for the world? Maybe then someone can make a manifesto and then send it to or post it to any sceptic journalist or politician or opinioninst…? Maybe it’s a naive idea but I don’t think talking them will help, we should give them prospectus according to their nationalities.

  10. avatar
    jthk

    You cannot wake up people pretending to be sleeping. The right thing needs courage to act. It depends on whether one can put interest of mankind above that of narrow self-interests.

  11. avatar
    Boyko

    Send all greens and liberals to Congo to dig cobalt for batteries for two weeks, then give them shovels to plant trees, instead of doing green business.

  12. avatar
    Karel

    Climate extremism is not the answer, nor is green populism. As an example, nuclear energy is by far the cleanest energy source, yet green and liberal politicians want to have it removed and replaced by polluting green energy sources like wind mills (ever wondered how these constructions terrorise wild life, birds in the sky, fish in the water? ever wondered the energy needed to produce them – composites and concrete? ever wondered about the limited recycling options?).Green extremist dogmas rule today’s green frenzy, ignoring in most cases the scientific facts.

  13. avatar
    Michał

    It would help if the people talking about it the most didn’t promote totally fake solutions for themselves (carbon credits, flying around to climate conferences, Teslas, artisanal coconut Milk flown half way around the planet) while promoting totally humiliating restrictions for the hoi polloi (eating bugs, learning to code, aborting their Kids).Furthermore, while I don’t doubt that climate is changing, the science is weaker on that than on some of the environmental problems that are definitely happening, like poisoning from plastics, or the die off of bees. Much of the new “green” technology seems to be full of plastic or similar materials, for instance.Also, I would have to find the link, but there was an article in the BBC a year or two ago that showed that the entire recycling industry is a greenwashing scam by the plastic industry that led to an increase in plastic consumption.The truth is, the hoi polloi never asked for most of these technological advances, we shouldn’t bear the harshest consequences for them. We will, though.

  14. avatar
    Tihomir

    they can not be convinced, because they do not want to be convinced. It all goes down to the size of the world one can handle, and the way bigger and smaller problems/worlds are rendered to match the personal scope. I would say that all the deniers are a lost cause. Focus on the children, but do not brainwash them with policies, because this will backfire as it has multiple times already. The problem scaling is a tricky thing to deal with through the educational system, this is where religions normally operate. They provide personified and thus relatable entities and narratives, that effectively map the bigger/smaller(related to individual cognitive capacity) things to the emotional spectrum of the group, while providing the interface for that group to accumulate members and truths. Unfortunately religions are not flashy enough for their modern audience. This is why we see the raise of cult-alike conspiracies. The nature of the power narratives has changed, and since such narratives are pivotal for the group-building/accumulation of a religion, those end up being pushed aside, and replaced with mediocre idiotism, that is still too immature to crystalize into a post-religious construct. The latter is a mixed bag, a crystalized post-religion will be addressable through the administrative layer it requires, thus manageable to an extent, but it has a tendency to elevate towards theocracy-like interaction models(Trump in the us is a good example). So as a summary those people need their new gods, but if you go and give those to them, that may empower them to a point where you are looking at a crusade of some sort. So the best thing is simply to ignore them completely in public debates, while keeping an eye on the echo chambers(proto-religious groups) they realize themselves in.

  15. avatar
    Olivier

    Climate change is not a 21 century issue.. It happened few times in the world history.. Mankind is not guilty for everything..

  16. avatar
    Karolis

    Wasn’t there an exposure of CNN that climate change is propaganda meant to push a political agenda?

  17. avatar
    Wendy

    The gullible can be convinced of anything if you frighten them enough but the more you try to use fear on sceptics the more sceptical they become.They might try the truth for change but I doubt they even know what it is.

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