Forget about global warming!

It is an unwinnable argument. The science is difficult for many people to understand, and there are always experts (scientists and others) whose personal interests lead them to argue against the consensus of scientific thought. So for people who don’t understand the science or choose to believe contrarian experts, it is not about logic. It is about emotion. And you cannot win an emotional argument using facts.

You must present your case by appealing to others’ self-interest based on their emotional needs and fears. And present it in a non-argumentative way. Try these questions:

  1. Do you believe it is okay to dump poison into our air, our water, our soil? For any reason? Would you allow someone to do so on your home?
  2. Would you want your children to breath air that makes them sick? Would you let them drink water containing arsenic?
  3. Do you really believe that businesses will balance their legitimate need for profit against the risk and cost associated with ‘accidents’, and do what is right for you and your family, without any system of accountability other than the courts (which move very slowly)? Yes, some businesses will do the right thing, but do you believe that all businesses will?

If you ask these questions in a way that says that you are actually interested in what they think, you may start a conversation that leads to the discovery of common ground. The result of that conversation may be a definition of the problem that you both agree on. Then, you can brainstorm solutions to the problem — remember the cardinal rule of brainstorming: “no idea is wrong or ridiculous” — to create a list of ideas without filters and with a minimum of prejudice. Finally, examine each idea for its strengths and weaknesses and try to agree on one or more possible solutions, then work together to see that politicians act on them.

This approach will not change everyone’s mind. Some people hold on to their beliefs with a ferocity that can’t be overcome. It will not immediately convince business people and politicians who grab and hold power by creating fear and uncertainty. However, they may come around when it is in their self-interest to do so — when their constituents make it so.