Skeptics are not convinced that climate change is a result of human activity, and some seem to be bold and outspoken. They often reference “natural cycles” and focus on economic issues and other challenges facing society. They may be very articulate in their arguments against addressing climate change. Interpreters can acknowledge skeptics by crediting their efforts to learn about climate change. Inquiring further about sources they use for information will give you a better understanding of your audience. Listen carefully, acknowledge their key points without agreeing that they are correct and find some common ground where you may share a similar perspective, “we can all agree that the ocean is a valuable resource.” This increases your credibility with the audience, and removes the element of argument from the conversation, pointing everyone’s attention back in a positive direction. Sample dialogue might go like this:
Interpreter: Scientists are concerned that the changing climate may seriously alter seasonal migration patterns of creatures ranging from birds to butterflies.
Skeptic: I heard that many scientists question these climate change predictions and that this is just a way to drain more of our tax dollars into meaningless research projects.
Interpreter: Indeed, scientists frequently question their own work and that of other scientists. That questioning is part of the scientific process and that’s what makes science so rigorous – any research that gets published in top science journals is reviewed, questioned and ultimately accepted by other scientists. So that questioning is why we believe ultimately in the results of the scientific process. I’m glad you’re looking at the science of climate change. More of us need to consider what top scientific institutions are saying about climate change so we can make informed choices that will make a difference.
Remember that your audience expects you to be versed in at least some current climate science and energy information – be sure to use the resources included in these training modules and know your own organization’s stance on climate change.
Interpreters can engage a climate change skeptic by listening carefully, acknowledging key points without agreeing, asking them why they believe what they do, and finding common ground where they share a similar perspective.
Interpretive Technique: Multiple Points of View
Here the visitor initiates the conversation and asks a question. The interpreter responds by asking the skeptic to explain their situation, and then frames the issue of diminishing salmon runs from multiple points of view for this skeptical audience.
Interpretive Technique: Question & Answer with Doubter
The interpreter in this video frames the impact of warming seas on seabirds by using question and answer along with analogies for a skeptical audience who initiated the conversation with a question.