An Alternative to Belief Conversion

For a while I have been struggling with how arduous and unfeasible it is to try to convince climate change deniers that anthropocentric global warming is real.  I have also been struggling with what I can do instead of convince them. Bain et al. (2012) believes they have conducted the first scientific study to answer this question, looking at how to change the behaviors of climate deniers instead of their opinions.  The authors deduced that, “the recent trend of increasing denial suggests that relying on ‘converting’ climate change deniers may not be a successful or timely strategy.”

Bain (2012) claims that most environmental scientists and activists have tried two ineffective methods in the past to communicate with climate change deniers.  Some have tried hopelessly to convince climate deniers that climate change is real, primarily by focusing on the science behind it.  This is ineffective primarily because you can not use science to convince someone who has a distrust or disbelief in science. Furthermore, climate change deniers are as stubborn about the fact that anthropocentric climate change is fake as believers are about it being real.  Other scientists and activists have given up on the deniers and resolved to focus on the habits and actions of climate change believers, but this leaves a large portion of the population to be reckless with their actions in terms of environmental consequences.  Therefore, Bain (2012) argues, “to motivate deniers’ pro-environmental actions, communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society, rather than focusing on the reality of climate change and averting its risks.”


Bain (2012) advocates for a focus on the health and communal benefits to acting on climate change then the science or the “identity” attitude (“i am a believer,” “I am not a believer”) of climate change.  Basically, climate change believers should provide alternative incentives to act according to climate change to deniers other than climate change itself. At first I read this as manipulating or tricking climate change deniers into behaving the way we want.  Now I realize Bain’s (2012) fundamental argument is that there needs to be common ground and shared goals between believers and deniers.  This, for the most part, is the goal of furthering societal development and the well-being of people.  It’s been shown that for the most part people of all different beliefs and backgrounds tend to want to live in an economically and scientifically developed place that is well-functioning and safe.  The two studies conducted by Bain (2012) show that focusing on the societal benefits and “warmth” within a community is a more effective method of working with climate change deniers.  Most climate change deniers in the study believed focusing on climate change efforts had other positive effects on the nation and moral character, and the deniers who followed this line of thinking tended to take more environmental action than the deniers who felt otherwise.  While this paper focused on communication with climate change deniers, the authors believe this is an effective climate change approach overall. Bain (2012) claims that their data and results prove that, “overall, framing climate change action in terms of producing greater interpersonal warmth or societal development was more effective… than a frame focusing on the reality and risks of climate change.”



Bain et al. “Promoting pro-Environmental Action in Climate Change Deniers.” Nature Climate Change 2 (2012): 600-603.

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