Climate Communication Rebuttal:
Must read: The Debunking Handbook

Uh oh.   Did you know that your efforts to correct climate misinformation could be backfiring?   That you may be inadvertently be reinforcing the very myths you seek to dislodge?

For a quick self-check, download this short guide, The Debunking Handbook, by Skeptical Science’s John Cook and Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky.    It’s free, and in just 6 pages shows you how to avoid the “backfire effect” and make your corrections stick.

You can trust Cook and Lewandowsky’s advice; it’s all solidly grounded in cognitive psychology research.

Here are my “Top Ten” take-away points:

  • Myth are tough to kill.     Don’t kid yourself.   Just providing new information doesn’t work because “mud sticks.”
  • Avoid repeating the myth.    Repeating the myth makes the falsehood more familiar and memorable.     (Remember “Beans in My Ears?”)
  • Wrap the myth in a “truth sandwich.”     Begin and end with the facts, not the myth.
  • Innoculate your listener.     If you must state the myth once, preface it with an explicit warning,  e.g. “Watch out.  you may be misled.”
  • Avoid overkill.     Think KISS:  “Keep it simple, stupid”   Research shows — and trial lawyers know — that three points are more persuasive than ten.
  •  Encourage your listener.    When people feel good about themselves, they are more open new information that may conflict with pre-existing views.    Check any anger and arrogance at the door.
  • Frame it in the listener’s values.   Avoid trigger words (e.g. “tax”) that may threaten other people”s worldview.
  • Weaken the myth by exposing ulterior motives and logical fallacies.    This helps create a “gap” where facts can enter.
  • Graphics are more effective than text in correcting misconceptions.
  • Focus on the undecided majority, not the unswayable minority.

This is just a quick and subjective gloss.    Anybody serious about climate communication and persuading others should read this 6-page gem.

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