No matter how lucidly the truth is explained and how authoritatively it is supported, it is unlikely to persuade anyone who needs persuading. To see why not, consider why most of us who agree about the urgency of the climate crisis believe in climate change. We may argue that scientists have collected overwhelming evidence of climate change, its anthropogenic origin, and the catastrophic threat it poses. But do we really believe in it because we have studied climate scientists’ peer-reviewed scholarship? If not, then why should we expect climate change skeptics to be persuaded by it?

Why, really, do we believe what we believe? Perhaps, we trust the many scientists, journalists, and leaders warning about climate change because we figure they have little incentive to lie about it, whereas climate change skeptics have every incentive: it is more profitable and politically expedient to ignore the prospect of climate change than to address it. And maybe we think the actions necessary to mitigate climate change would be desirable regardless of its threat because they create cleaner air, limit environmentally destructive extraction processes, reduce profits to the war-mongering oil industry and the geopolitics it has created, and incentivize investments in energy conservation and the environmental security of vulnerable people.

But for a supporter of Trump or contemporary Republican, these factors probably do not apply. They may believe that “the establishment” leaders do have a motivation to lie and that the actions they propose are not a win-win scenario: they want to take money away from those who have it and redistribute it to those who do not.

The reality is that we all believe whom and what we want to be true. Therefore, to change what people believe, we must change what they want.


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