Perspectives on Climate Change

February 28, 2022

~ 6 minutes read

Conversations around climate change are filled with emotion, especially when we struggle to understand exactly why people disagree with us.

The bottom line: Disagreements around climate change aren’t just about whether the climate is changing. They are about what’s causing it to do so, who’s responsible, how urgent the issue is, and what we need to do about it.

Below, we present a range of ideas about the urgency of climate change and potential solutions. Each position is informed by sentiments in the top 100 most retweeted tweets mentioning “climate” or “global warming” over the past year. 

These are not the only positions on climate change — and your view may differ. We aren’t trying to change your mind, just help you understand why others might see this issue so differently.

How are different people thinking about climate change?

Position 1
The climate crisis is here, and it needs to be taken seriously or the Earth will be uninhabitable within the lifetime of our children. It’s time to stop criticizing policies that move us away from fossil fuels for being imperfect – no policy is perfect – and start battling this crisis with all we’ve got.


If a crisis is imminent, then it makes sense to advocate for comprehensive changes to address the upcoming crisis, even when they might temporarily hurt the economy. If we don’t, there won’t be an economy to save.  
Position 2
Corporations have been profiting off of polluting our earth for centuries. They knew they were doing it, and buried the evidence. We need to stop pushing the burden of climate change onto individuals and recognize that corporations are the primary cause of climate change, and they should be the ones paying to fix it.


If companies are the main culprit of climate change, then it makes sense to regulate and financially penalize companies who are responsible for creating this crisis.  
Position 3
Apocalyptic predictions cause unnecessary anxiety and lead us to implement unhelpful or short-sighted policies. We’re making progress towards a cleaner planet every day. When we lose our heads about climate change and think that doing anything is better than doing nothing, we often end up proving ourselves wrong.


If we have time to solve the climate crisis, then it makes sense to act judiciously, not radically, when working to address climate change because for every bad policy we try, there’s a better one we didn’t.  
position 4
Earth’s temperature has fluctuated wildly throughout history, and scientists overstate their ability to determine how much of current temperature shifts have to do with natural causes versus human causes. 


If climate change is not primarily caused by human activity, then it makes sense to be cautious about climate policies that could hurt the economy because there’s a decent chance they do nothing to solve the climate crisis and harm people in the process.  
position 5
The left is capitalizing on climate anxiety to reshape our entire political environment, even on issues that aren’t directly related to climate change, like economic inequality. Linking climate legislation to socialist policies at best hurts the cause, and at worst leaves a door open to authoritarianism.


If climate anxiety makes us more susceptible to accepting authoritarianism, then it makes sense to be skeptical about radical climate change policies because they intrude on our fundamental rights.

How can we all live in the same reality, yet believe such different things about climate change?

When we discuss climate change, we tend to tell others to “look at the facts.” But in the age of the internet, you can find “proof” for any position we listed above. So how do we move forward, knowing that looking at the facts is insufficient for developing an informed opinion on climate change?

First, we need to be aware of how our brains process information. The first information we hear on any topic tends to stick in our brains for a long time, especially when that information makes us feel strong emotions. Even when we come across new evidence that we think carries weight we hold onto our old beliefs. This means that with longstanding issues such as climate change, our conscious opinions are entangled in information we subconsciously use to inform our worldview.

Being aware of these processes means paying attention to our internal monologue when learning about climate change. Pay attention to how you react to information about who’s to blame, timelines of destruction, proposed solutions, etc. — especially when that reaction involves automatically dismissing (or believing) something because it feels right or wrong. Often, if we take an extra couple of seconds to ask ourselves why it feels true or false, we discover our assumptions aren’t as obviously true as we thought. We can then proceed with a better understanding of our subconscious instincts and make conscious decisions about what we believe.

Finally, it’s important to remember that we won’t benefit from this process without a healthy amount of intellectual humility. The question of what climate change looks like, and the corresponding question of what to do about it, are not simple. The only thing we know for sure is that no individual has the full story — and that includes you. This necessarily means that at least some of how each of us thinks about climate change is misinformed. And that’s okay — it just means we have more to learn and can benefit from remaining open to the idea that we might be wrong.

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