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Climate Conversations

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Larissa Waters 22 Jul 2015

Having conversations is one of the most accessible and effective ways to change attitudes.

With global warming well and truly back on the political agenda now is a great opportunity to reengage with family and friends about global warming, it's impacts on our lives and economy and what we need to do about it.

Getting Started: 

1 // Pick your battles

The whole point of having a conversation about global warming with your friends and family is precisely because they are your friends. There's an automatic level of trust between you that makes it easier to overcome objections, and address concerns. That means it's really important to approach these conversations as you would any other with your friends and family - as a genuine exchange with someone you respect!

The purpose of these conversations is not to change the mind of that second cousin who delights in being contrarian, it's to have genuine, honest conversations with your friends and family members who maybe aren't sure about what global warming means, whether it's real, and what to do about it.

2 // Remember that these are your friends, not your enemies

When you care about something a lot (like action on climate change) and someone else doesn't - it can be easy to conclude that they must be a *bad person*. Remember - these people are your friends and it's highly likely that even if they're not sure about global warming, they share many other values with you. Try talking about global warming in terms of these values. (E.g. maybe they have a strong sense of social justice but see global warming as primarily an environmental issue - try talking to them about what global warming will mean for some of the world's poorest people.)

Thanks to Will Grant and Rod Lamberts' 'Twelve ways to deal with a climate change denier - the BBQ guide' published in The Conversation for this hot tip!

3// How do I start the conversation?

Starting the conversation can often feel like the hardest part. How do you bring it up? Luckily (in some ways!) global warming has been in the media *a lot* lately.

You might want to talk to them about:

- The slashing of our Renewable Energy Target and the importance of global warming being established as a national priority before the next election (so we don't see this race to the bottom again!)

- Some of the Government's more ridiculous stunts like the establishment of a Wind Commissioner, or the continued backing of dirty coal despite the rest of the world moving to jobs rich and clean renewable energy

- The United Nations climate talks in Paris, and how Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world

- The Shenhua coal mine approval and what it might mean for our fertile farmland

4 // What if they ask a question I don't know the answer to?

That's fine - you're human, not a machine! You're not expected to know all the answers. The most important thing is to say what you do know, and be honest when you don't know the answer.

 5 // What if I can't persuade them? 

The beauty of conversations is that you can keep coming back to them. A TV ad has 30 seconds to capture your attention and compel you do something. You, on the other hand, have every time you see your friend or colleague to keep chipping away at their concerns or queries. Be patient - asking someone to change their opinion can be difficult. Your first conversation might just be the start of more conversations to come.

Having a Powerful Conversation:

Step One // Listen

This is possibly the most important part of the whole conversation. Stepping back and allowing the other person to express why they don't believe the science, or why they oppose renewable energy does two things:

 1 // Builds trust that this conversation will be constructive not combative. Conversations often escalate into conflicts because one party does not feel listened to; and

 2 // Gives you the information you need to properly acknowledge and respond to their concerns.

 Step Two // Acknowledge

By acknowledging the other person's beliefs, objections or queries, you let them know that you have heard what they've got to say. It's also an opportunity to check that you understand their point of view.

You can acknowledge by repeating they have said back to them:

"Right, so you saw on the news that the earth is actually cooling!"

Or, by asking a question to clarify:

"So, does that mean you do think that global warming is real but you reckon there's a better solution than a price on pollution?"

Or, by reflecting on perhaps some common ground that you shared:

"Yeah! I was furious when I saw my electricity bill had gone up! I was sure it was the cost of renewable energy, but then did some research and found it was actually due to all the wires and poles they had to replace."

Step Three // Ask

Asking questions will help you clarify the reasons behind your friend or family member's point of view. For example, if someone says "I hate renewable energy" by asking them to clarify exactly what about renewable energy they don't like, you have more information to properly address their concerns.

Step Four // Resolve

Step four seems like the meatiest, most important part of the conversation - but in actual fact, you've already done most of the work teasing out their concerns and objections in the first three steps. Resolving is about 'neutralising' their objection. You're not leaping straight into trying to convince them that they are wrong - rather you are simply addressing each of the concerns that they have raised with you throughout the conversation.

For example, your conversation may have begun with "I hate renewable energy". Having listened, acknowledged and asked questions, you have found out that they actually think the RET has caused their power bills to go up, or that people working in coal mining are losing their jobs because of the RET.

This part of the conversation is where you respond to each of these concerns. You let them know that renewable energy is actually pushing down the cost of electricity. You explain that so far, the RET has created over 24,000 jobs in Australia, and you explain that we have enormous opportunity for economic growth by investing in the renewable energy sector. (And, the Greens have a policy of transitioning Australia to 100% renewable energy by 2040!)

Step Five // Persuade

Finally, it's time to persuade your friend or colleague to shift their attitudes. This is the 'cherry on the cake' part of the conversation. You won't get to this point every time, but it's a bonus when you do!

This is the stage where you get to tell your story - why do you support taking action on global warming?

What are you fearful of? Got kids' whose futures you're worried about? Concerned about the poverty and disadvantage that will be compounded by global warming? Experienced the devastation of bushfires and want to prevent more extreme weather events in the future?

And how do you hope it can be different? Are you excited that we are one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world? Have you been following the massive increase in renewable energy production all over the world and are hopeful we can follow suit?

People respond to both facts and values. This is the part of the conversation where you appeal to values like compassion, equality, fairness, justice and sustainability.

And that's it! Easy!

REMEMBER: Conversations are the most powerful tool we have to change people's hearts and minds. Having conversations with people you know is effective because there is an automatic level of trust - you aren't a stranger trying to change their mind, you are someone who they recognise as a rational, reasonable person in their lives. Conversations allow for a back-and-forth dialogue that other forms of communication such as advertising or watching or reading the news do not.

We Greens know that global warming is the greatest challenge that we, our planet and our economies face. 

The LNP and Labor are still absolutely committed to expanding coal and coal seam gas mining which will drive up greenhouse gases, contribute to dangerous climate change and put our Great Barrier Reef (and the 69,000 jobs it creates!) at risk.

We are the only party who have a plan to transition away from coal mines and coal exports, and towards new clean-energy industries. Every conversation you have takes us close to that goal.

Invite your friends and family to join our campaign here >> grns.mp/power-back

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