Pathways to Changing the Minds of Climate Deniers


Want to sway the opinion of climate deniers? Start by acknowledging and respecting people’s beliefs. 

Want to sway the opinion of climate deniers? Start by acknowledging and respecting people’s beliefs. That’s one of four suggestions a Stanford researcher unearthed in a review of the psychology behind why some people reject climate change despite knowledge or access to the facts.

Denying the effects of climate change serves as a barrier to taking the actions needed to mitigate the worst effects, including rising seas, more intense hurricanes and increased droughts and heatwaves. However, the researchers found that those who deny human causes for climate change can be swayed through conversations that appeal to their different identities, reframe solutions – or even embrace their climate views.

“I think in the climate change sphere there’s this thinking of, ‘there’s the deniers over there, let’s just not even engage with them – it’s not worth it,’” said behavioral scientist Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, lead author of the paper published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability Jan. 8. “A lot of the tactics and strategies start from the point that something is wrong with the climate deniers, rather than trying to acknowledge that they have a belief and opinion and it matters. But I think there is an opportunity to keep trying to understand one another, especially now.”

The researchers focused on what is referred to as “motivated denial” – knowing or having access to the facts, but nevertheless denying them. For some people, accepting that humans cause climate change questions self-worth, threatens financial institutions and is accompanied by an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

Read more at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

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