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Stop making sense: why it's time to get emotional about climate change

The science has been settled to the highest degree, so now the key to progress is understanding our psychological reactions

A climate protest painted on a bridge over the Avon River in the Gippsland town of Stratford in Victoria. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

It took me much longer than it should have to realise that educating people about climate change science was not enough. Due perhaps to my personality type (highly rational, don’t talk to me about horoscopes, please) and my background (the well-educated daughter of a high school teacher and an academic), I have grown up accepting the idea that facts persuade and emotions detract from a good argument.

Then again, I’m a social scientist. I study people. I deal mostly in feelings, not facts. A joke I like to tell about myself during speeches is that I’m an expert in the opinions of people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Over the 15 years I’ve been a social researcher, I’ve watched with concern the increasing effects of climate change, and also watched as significant chunks of the electorate voted for political parties with terrible climate change policies. [continue]