US research finds that neighbors may want to talk about the climate, but rarely do

If you’re reluctant to talk to your neighbors about climate change, a number of recent studies suggest they’re likely to be willing to talk — as long as you’re willing to really listen, not lecture, and maintain the focus locally.

Although it is increasingly in the news, the climate crisis is not discussed much by people in their daily lives, according to a New York Times A Yale poll last year that found that only 35% of Americans speak of global. Occasional warming, while 64% talk about it ‘rarely or never’.

The Times says that this reticence is likely due to the fear of “getting into hateful discussions”. The fear of appearing ignorant may also discourage some who might speak otherwise.

The paper writes that climate talks could happen more easily if “climate buffs” realize that they are far from alone in their awareness and fears. The truth is that people “tend to underestimate the number of their peers who accept the reality of climate change,” according to studies in the United States, Australia and China.

“It is very likely that your neighbors are somewhat familiar with the science of climate change, even in conservative places,” wrote The Times, citing a recent survey in Indiana as evidence. Those surveyed estimated that 60% of Indians “accepted the basic facts about global warming.” The actual percentage is closer to 80%.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to have these discussions,” Matthew Houser, a former research fellow at the Institute for Environmental Resilience at Indiana University, told The Times. But we must be “strategic, thoughtful and careful about how we get into them.”

“Listen first, then speak,” advised Molly Berhans, a student scholar at the institute. “Climate change means something different to everyone, and everyone is affected differently.”

Hauser, who now works with The Nature Conservancy, also stressed the value in initiating local climate impacts and associated solutions. “I do not need to enter into a broader discussion about changing the global dependence on oil,” he added.

You also don’t need a degree in climate science to talk about climate change. Some people are afraid to talk about global warming for fear of appearing to be ignorant of what they see as an “expert” topic, said Nathaniel Geiger, a fellow at the Resilience Institute. But this self-censorship can be very destructive: “If most people concerned with climate change don’t talk about it,” those around them “will mistakenly assume that others are not concerned.”

There is still a part of the population where climate deprivation persists and is in good health. The right-wing press in the United Kingdom, for example, is outdoing itself in claims that the scorching heat in that country is nothing more than an opportunity to eat more ice cream.

Tone-deaf Spectator columnist Brendan O’Neill has urged Britons to “calm down” in the face of what he calls the “green hysteria of the heat wave”. Suggesting something “frighteningly pre-modern in the idea that sinful humankind has brought heat, fire, and flood upon itself with its wicked, arrogant behavior,” he asks, “What’s next—locust pests as punishment for our failure to recycle?”

“What a Joker,” replies the new statesman. “Sardinia is experiencing its worst locust infestation in more than 30 years,” thanks in large part to the extreme heat of climate change.

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