What I learned from a conversation with a climate skeptic

Getting asked a tough question

Getting asked a tough questionIn my first week with Climate for Change,  I sat in on a focus group to hear what the community knows and feels about climate change.

The participants handed their survey’s in and I glanced over them. Oh no! Someone in the room was a hard-core climate skeptic: they thought global warming was a complete hoax.

I am so glad he was there.

I am even more glad that it was a focus group.

The Value of Saying Nothing

Since the purpose of a focus group is to try to get the honest views of the people there, I wasn’t allowed to say anything. I couldn’t even do anything in case my facial expression made people feel judged or caused them to give a more “acceptable”, but less honest answer.

It was such an educational experience.

As he rattled off point after point that I felt was completely wrong, the conversation simply moved on. No one in the focus group challenged his view-point, and so it was said, and then we moved on.

Imagine what might’ve happened if I’d been allowed to speak, to say that I thought he was wrong.

Finding Agreement

When the conversation continued from the causes and impacts of global warming to solutions, to my surprise, we were in complete agreement.

In fact, he even had solar panels installed on his home.

But if I’d been allowed to speak, we probably would never have known because we would’ve gotten bogged down in argument about the existence of global warming and never moved on.

At the end of the focus group, everyone was curios, so they asked us why we were conducting the focus group, and what were the “correct” answers?

So we started to share, and objections started to come up from the skeptic about the science, about the people promoting it. At which point I said “well, we disagree on the problem, but we seem to agree about the solutions” – and the conversation turned once again into a positive and vibrant conversation about a renewable future.

It’s so easy to focus on the things we disagree on, but if we agree on the solutions, why argue about the problem?

If we agree on the solutions, why argue about the problem?


Have you ever been in a situation where you found common ground despite a seemingly insurmountable disagreement?