Former Climate Deniers, What Changed Your Mind?

If you, like me, are often caught up in the daily drama of the news cycle, it’s hard to believe that anyone ever changes their mind about anything. But there are actually people who have done a complete turnaround in their beliefs about climate change, and their journey may provide us with useful insights.

Recently, I came across an article published by Yale Climate Connections that analyzes the responses of 66 former climate change skeptics to the question, “Former climate change deniers, what changed your mind?” (See the raw discussion thread here) We must bear in mind that any conclusions drawn from such a small, non-random sample pool do not, in any way, constitute scientific proof;  nevertheless the question of how a mind changes is undeniably germane to those of us experiencing daily anxiety about our ostensibly democratic nation’s inertia in dealing with the impending climate crisis.

The specific conclusions discussed in the Yale analysis are intriguing, but the more relevant takeaway for me was the reminder that even grown people are capable of entertaining new information, even skeptically, and in turn synthesizing that information into meaningful transformation. For those of us convinced that climate change is of urgent concern, there may be much of value to be gleaned from simple human engagement (asking questions) - and, perhaps counterintuitively, listening to the responses of people we aim to convince. 

The Earth Charter says we ought to “[p]rovide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.” If we are going to invest time and resources in engaging the skeptical, we’d be well-served to know what is actually effective. 

- Andy Fry