Sunday, August 25, 2013

The UnGreens at WUWT - communicating with science deniers

Sou | 5:45 AM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

This is interesting.  Anthony Watts has come across a booklet on climate communication, prepared by the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at the University of Oregon.  The booklet is called: Climate Communications and Behavior Change - A Guide for Practitioners.

The interesting bit is three-fold.  Firstly it's interesting that Anthony ignores most of the book and focuses on one section more than halfway through on page 37, in which it discusses how to shape the message to the audience.

Secondly it's interesting to see the group that Anthony relates to.  It's the bottom 3%.  The group labelled the "UnGreens".  (For once he might have got something right.)

The UnGreens are described as those who think that environmental degradation and pollution are inevitable parts of America's prosperity.  That seems to match with wondering Willis Eschenbach's views and those of many WUWT readers.

The third interesting thing is Anthony's reaction to the words in that section.  I've observed a few times how conservatives on WUWT are very afraid of being scared.  Even Anthony's headline has the word "scary" not once but twice. Scared  is something Anthony and his followers are very scared of.  It seems to be a confirmation of the literature on how brains work, with conservatives having an ultra-sensitive fear response.  Anthony's interpretation of the following is an example. Here's a screenshot:

Notice the part he highlighted in yellow and what he wrote underneath - his "translation", which I highlighted with a red marker.  The sentence Anthony highlighted in yellow is about matching the message to be consistent with and tap into the values held by people.  Anthony presumably picked up on the word "tension" and translated that into "tense and fearful".  His mis-translation fits with the findings that the conservative brain is easily overtaken by emotion and this prevents rational thinking.

This over-the-top-reaction makes it very difficult to communicate with conservatives who are also science deniers.  The more extreme of them may exhibit the sort of paranoia shown by Anthony Watts above.  It's quite fascinating to observe, but makes it very difficult for science communicators and anyone who is trying to inform the public about climate change to reach this more extreme group of people.

There is more from Anthony on the WUWT website.  He makes fun of the language used.  It comes across as if he is trying to defuse his knee-jerk 'scared' response to the booklet by making a joke of it.

I wonder if the language used in the booklet had been different would the reaction have been the same.  For example, the Yale Project on Climate Communication labeled the bottom 8% as Dismissives (of climate change).  Words can be quite powerful and although the last thing a WUWT-er would want to admit to is being thought of as a 'greenie', they might still be offended at being thought of as 'ungreen' - even though they've chosen that label for themselves.  (They could have chosen to relate to any one or more of the ten segments identifed on page 37 of the booklet.)

Here is a link to the booklet "the Ecological Roadmap" from which came the ten audience segments used in the climate communications booklet.

From the WUWT comments

JimS says:
August 24, 2013 at 10:29 am Did someone at the University of Oregon resurrect Joseph Goebbels?

Dena says:
August 24, 2013 at 10:30 am We all know what this is called and it’s not new. This is call propaganda. From Hitler, Stalin, a politician or your local used car sales man, they all attempt to use a weakness in your character to move you in their direction. Effective propaganda will use a common weak point or fear but an attack in several areas will work as well.  What people need to understand is that this is an attack on emotion and not on logic. If you can override your emotions and see it with logic, you will see the truth.

pesadia says:
August 24, 2013 at 10:51 am  Ungreen is as close as they can get to UNCLEAN and that iswhat they mean.

Mycroft says:
August 24, 2013 at 12:03 pm  Joseph Goebbels would be proud! when you have to use propaganda type tactics instead of facts you should realise you have lost the argument.

BradProp1 says (extract):
August 24, 2013 at 11:56 am  I find the “ungreens” to be the true “greens”. We smart people understand that Co2 greens the planet. We also work to preserve the land and the animals (we eat) so that they will be around in the future. We also don’t try to fix what isn’t broken. We also understand that the future is in new technology. Not old tech (wind power) with a new coat of paint.


  1. Dena: "We all know what this is called and it’s not new. This is call propaganda."

    That is a succinct summary of WUWT.

  2. I liked this bit too, from Brad:

    We also work to preserve the land and the animals (we eat) so that they will be around in the future.

    Translation: "The animals we eat are important. The rest of them can sod off, because if they ain't part of my food chain..."

    I'd say Brad might care a lot if, for example, the problem we are seeing with the large honey bee die-offs doesn't get resolved soon.



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