Changing the Moral Arguments to Engage Climate Change Non-Believers

The large majority of Americans (and apparently up to half of Republicans) say they support governmental action to address global climate change, this according to an opinion piece by Robb Willer of The New York Times on Sunday, March 1.

“While the number of Republicans who say global warming is a serious problem has reached high levels, there remains a very large gap in moral engagement with the issue . . . Where liberals view environmental issues as matters of right and wrong, conservatives generally do not.”

Most environmental arguments are couched in terms of needing to protect people and ecosystems from harm and destruction, a moral concern that resonates more with liberals than conservatives (even though a conservative president, Richard Nixon, founded the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970). However, the opinion piece and research suggest that pro-environmental messages specifically targeting conservative values—patriotism, respect for authority, sanctity or purity—could persuade conservatives to join in the environmental movement. When tested, emphasizing the need to protect natural habitats from desecration so that our children can experience the uncontaminated purity and value of nature resonated with conservatives.

“Such efforts to understand others’ moral perspectives might not only bring both sides in line on this important issue, but also foster the sort of sincerity and respect necessary to sustain a large-scale collective effort.”

Finding environmental common ground looks like a possibility. Rejoice!

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