Scientists tend to agree that climate change is happening, and humans are at least partially to blame.
Ask a liberal what they think, and you’ll likely hear something like this:
“Hang on, let me put down my non-GMO soy half-caff, fair trade, locally-sourced macchiato so I can gesticulate properly. Look, if 97% of scientists agree that we’re impacting our environment negatively, and there’s something we can do to reverse the damage, what’s the problem? We’ve only got one earth, and I want to leave a beautiful planet to my exceptional and gifted children, Namaste and Flax.”
They will then jump in their Prius and “speed” away, to the extent Priuses can speed.
There are, of course, people who disagree with climate scientists’ conclusions. Some people believe that climate change is a liberal conspiracy. Some presidents believe it’s a Chinese hoax designed to put other countries’ manufacturing at a competitive disadvantage. And in other news, there are also people who insist that the Earth is flat and the Moon landing was faked.
It makes sense that the same folks who angrily dismiss all “experts” as condescending “East Coast elites” are also quick to declare “science” as a bunch of liberal “bullshit.”
The problem is not really one of belief. Science is true whether you believe it or not.
The problem, it seems, is one of incentives.
Liberal individuals (and maybe some liberal politicians) tend to be incentivized to action by feelings of empathy: empathy for the less fortunate, empathy for animals, empathy for children, empathy for grandchildren who’ll never see the grandeur of Yosemite and Yellowstone if we don’t preserve them.
Conservatives—at least in the modern American meaning of the word—tend to be incentivized by self-interest. Their patron saint, Ayn Rand, wrote entire treatises on “objectivism,” a major tenet of which is the idea that acting in one’s own “rational self-interest” is the highest ideal. If you’re already a self-centered bastard, just read up, because you’re going to be a first ballot hall of famer at objectivism.
Liberals, wearing empathy goggles, see their conservative brethren through that particular lens. Thus, they wrongly expect them to be swayed to action by empathy-driven arguments, as liberals would be so swayed. They just can’t understand why the conservatives don’t care at all about Mother Earth, the kids, the animals, the grass, the sky, the reticulated gray squirrel, or anything else that’s obviously important.
Then the sad liberals shed a single tear at the folly of man, and settle in to watch The Rachel Maddow Show.
But to be fair, that’s a lot like wondering why your dog isn’t laughing at The Big Bang Theory. First, the show is best used as background noise for hours of mindlessly playing solitaire on your laptop. But more importantly, your dog doesn’t understand English, two-dimensional representation, object permanence, or a host of other prerequisites necessary to find it funny when Penny and Sheldon make fun of each other.
Your dog isn’t being dense or obtuse when he doesn’t laugh at the same things you laugh at. He’s just being a dog. To judge him by your standards as a human is to be constantly disappointed.
Plus, who the hell are you to judge a dog? Can you lick your own butt? No? Well he can, but you don’t see him judging you for your shortcomings.
In order to convince a conservative that they should care about something you find important, you have to appeal to what motivates them: their own self-interest.
Want a conservative to care about endangered species? Tie it to hunting and gun rights through conservation. If our non-stop development of open land kills all of the wildebeests, there won’t be any wildebeests for rich men with semi-automatic weapons to kill. And that’s a future none of us want. We just each want it for very different reasons.
Likewise, if you want conservatives to care about climate change, stop talking about the world we’re leaving for Namaste and Flax, or in their case, Honey Boo Boo and Bubba, Jr. They giveth not even a single fuck.
And for God’s sake, stop talking about science. They think you’re trying to use your big elitist brain to trick them, and then they just start thinking about their momma, and trains, and trucks, and prison, and getting drunk. They tune you out.
Instead, focus intently on how adapting our behavior affects them personally, positively, and NOW.
Want conservatives to support alternative fuels? Talk about decreasing our reliance on that got-danged Saudi royal family by growing more corn in the Heartland, like in Iowa and Minnesota. Tell them about reducing the price of gasoline at the pump. Tell them about hybrid cars and their increased fuel mileage. Tell them they can take all the savings and buy more camouflage gear, tactical equipment, and twelve-packs of Keystone Light. Think of how many more wildebeests they can kill now!
Want your right-wing friends to support solar energy? Tell them about the possibility of living off the grid, away from the watchful eye of the NSA, being self-sufficient and independent like the Good Lord intended all Americans to be. And tell them they’ll be powering their home for free. They can spend the savings on Duck Dynasty covers for their Bibles or something. It’s a win-win.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone would reduce their carbon footprint? Whoa, hold on there, Patchouli. No good ol’ boy is going to listen to you if you start with pansy-ass language like “carbon footprint.” Take that shit back to Berkeley.
Instead, bring up how much money you are saving by keeping your tires properly inflated, putting weather stripping around all of your windows, and increasing the insulation in your attic. All that talk of maintenance of your gear and saving money will get even the most skeptical NASCAR fan to stop and take a listen.
Of course, it would be great if instead of all of that, conservatives would just start caring about the future of humanity, the earth, nature, their own grandkids, etc. We could get a lot more accomplished in a lot less time if we were all on the same page. Unfortunately, looking at 30+ years of their purposeful evasion of any fact that doesn’t benefit them personally, it is doubtful we’re ever going to wind up on the same reason side on this one.
That’s no reason we can’t wind up on the same outcome side.
If we want to save the world, we just have to outsmart the self-centered bastards. Luckily, they’re super predictable. So, that should be pretty easy.
Hey, look! A wildebeest! Get ‘em, Bubba!
Want to read my thoughts about climate change in the form of hurricanes and their aftermath? Try It’s Raining Rain (Not Men). Or, to read about how a furniture salesman out-Christianed a Christian pastor during Hurricane Harvey, check out What Would Mattress Mack Do?