Website status

This site has not been updated since 2014 and is being maintained as an archive for now. As time allows we'll be weeding out the dated material and presenting the many useful articles in a new format. We'd appreciate any feedback on what you find most useful on this site via our contact page.

Dealing with Denial

How to Speak to a Climate Change Denier’

George Marshall offers some advice

A 20 minute video at:

In this 20 minute video I suggest six strategies for talking to people who do not accept climate science.  I argue strongly that one should avoid a fractious debate about the data and content of the science, and concentrate instead on addressing the values and emotions from which people  construct their beliefs.  The strategies are: finding common ground; expressing respect; clearly holding your views; explaining the personal journey that led to your own understanding; speaking to people’s worldview and values, and finally offering rewards that speak to those values.


These recommendations are based on the current social research and four years experience of leading workshops on peer to peer communications.  My colleague Dr Adam Corner has prepared a paper at with links to the original research. The text of this is below.

I want to apologise for using the phrase Climate Change Denier which is tricky I know.  I use it because it is the best title for people looking for this material and I want the video seen by as many people as possible.  Half way through the  video I recommend using the term Climate Dissenters as an alternative.



Many of the ideas that George dis­cusses are covered by dif­ferent Guides or fea­tured Resources on Talking Climate.

For example, George talks about the crit­ical influ­ence of family and friends in determ­ining people’s atti­tudes about cli­mate change. Read more about the impact and import­ance of social norms and social net­works on pro-environmental atti­tudes and beha­viours here.

George emphas­ises that argu­ment, con­flict, and dis­respectful lan­guage will make it more dif­fi­cult to achieve the goals you are aiming for – that is, to encourage some­body who is scep­tical about cli­mate change to engage with the problem and pos­sible solu­tions to it. Finding ‘common ground’ and being able to under­stand why people are scep­tical about cli­mate change in the first place is crit­ical.  It isn’t all that much to do with a lack of under­standing of ‘the sci­ence’, but has a lot to do with the ‘per­sonal journey’ that people go through when forming their beliefs about cli­mate change and whether to engage in sus­tain­able behaviour.

Something that is a central part of George’s argu­ment is that people’s ‘ world­views‘ – their social beliefs and cul­tural expect­a­tions – shape the way they feel about cli­mate change. People who are scep­tical about cli­mate change tend to hold cer­tain clusters of values and polit­ical beliefs. Understanding this is essen­tial for effective com­mu­nic­a­tion about cli­mate change.

As well as under­standing that cer­tain clusters of values tend to be asso­ci­ated with cli­mate change scep­ti­cism, it is important to be aware that dif­ferent ways of ‘framing’ the problem – as primarily an envir­on­mental or a human con­cern, for example – will also have a big impact.

Finally, George talks about the import­ance of showing that there are psy­cho­lo­gical ‘rewards’ in begin­ning to take action on cli­mate change, whereby the pro­cess of taking ini­tial steps towards more sus­tain­able beha­viours gen­er­ates a kind of momentum for fur­ther atti­tude and beha­vi­oural change. However, this is only likely to be effective if people are chan­ging their beha­viours for ‘intrinsic’ reasons (that is, the change in beha­viour is rewarding in itself, not because they receive some fin­an­cial reward etc). This sum­mary of emer­ging research shows  how devel­oping a sense of envir­on­mental ‘iden­tity’ or ‘cit­izen­ship’ is a much more powerful way of enga­ging people in the medium-to-long term, and provides more detail to accom­pany George’s points on cata­lysing beha­vi­oural and atti­tude change.

Dr. Adam Corner

George Marshall,

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Director of Projects,

Climate Outreach Information Network

Rhwydwaith Allgymorth a Gwybodaeth am yr Hinsawdd

Search The Site