The world’s temperature has risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880 and the amount of carbon in our atmosphere in parts per million is higher than any other recorded point in our planet’s history. We know the facts of climate change and we know the consequences, so why are some governments and companies slow to act on climate change or denying its existence altogether? When it comes to imparting the urgency of climate action, research shows storytelling could convince where facts and stats fail to do so.
A new study took an unconventional approach to climate research and focused on a human-centered tactic to get through to climate-change deniers. In the experiment, subjects listened to a short radio clip from 2015 about Richard Mode, a 66-year-old North Carolinian who enjoys hunting and fishing. The clip described Mode’s sadness in seeing climate change degrade his favorite natural habitats. The subjects, who had self-identified as conservatives and moderates, reported feeling greater concern for the changing climate and environment than when presented with the facts alone.
This new research further supports other studies that indicate many politicians and activists rely too heavily on facts and evidence to convince the opposition. Although these facts are real, accurate, and concerning, when it comes to convincing people, tangible stories could be more effective.
The results are not too surprising. When many people hear facts about climate change, it’s easy to distance ourselves from the statistics affecting far away places or tune out the scientific narrative. However, when we listen to real stories about people and places harmed by the changing climate, our empathetic instincts kick in. We’re more likely to care.