How To Turn Climate Skeptics Into Believers: Argue With Them On Warm Days

When it’s cold in summer, climate change nonbelievers ask where the global warming is. When it’s hot in winter, climate change activists tell people to step outside and see the changes we have wrought on the environment. And while these are both incredibly wrong-headed arguments with no basis in modern science, it turns out they’re smart techniques: A study in the journal Psychological Science has found that people’s opinions on climate change vary with their perception of the current temperature.

That’s right. If you ask someone if they believe in climate change and they feel as though it’s hotter outside than normal, they’re more inclined to agree. If they feel it’s colder, however, they’re happy to deny anything is changing about the weather. 

Scientists asked respondents who were getting paid $8 to take a survey whether they would like to give some of that money to climate change advocacy group Clean Air-Cool Planet. If they were feeling colder than normal, they weren’t interested. While political affiliation remains the easiest way to determine what a person thinks about climate change, the researchers found this effect to be almost as close–two-thirds as accurate at determining opinion.

Climate change is, of course, very much happening, no matter what you think the temperature should be. Yet 36% of people in the U.S. still don’t believe in it (and 57% don’t think it’s man-made). Here’s how to get them to change their minds: only argue with them on days when it’s unseasonably warm.

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