Here’s an Easy Way to Get Conservatives to Care about the Environment

It seems bizarre how right-leaning people in the U.S. can so easily disregard the science on climate change, but what if that’s because they don’t put a lot of stock in an uncertain future? Perhaps if conservatives were asked to spend more time considering what our environment was like in the “good old days,” they’d change their tunes.

That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Apparently, when you frame an environmental conversation with a focus on nostalgia – you know, longing for the pristine environment of the past – Republicans are much more likely to proclaim an interest in taking care of the planet.

The scientists behind this study were inspired to look into this variable during the past year’s American presidential campaign. The popular slogan “Make America Great Again” got them thinking about whether this longing for the past could also apply to the environment, even if Donald Trump himself barely addressed climate change.

To check this theory, the researchers ran a series of different tests on 1,600 participants that included different ways of viewing the environment. In one test, subjects simply read arguments about the environment and rated how compelling each was. In another, other subjects were asked to donate (fake) money to (fake) charities based on descriptions of their missions.

Throughout the different experiments, the results were telling. Conservatives were largely unmoved by material that warned of a dark future. They were, however, more captivated by pitches that centered on how much cleaner our air was and greener our forests were in decades past.

In fact, when presented with the idea of restoring the environment of the past, Republicans were remarkably persuaded; the gap between liberals and conservatives’ concern for the environment closed by nearly three-quarters.

While liberals were typically swayed by both kinds of arguments, they responded more to the appeals that dealt with the future, demonstrating that, for some, political affiliation can come down to a matter of perspective.

“If [Republicans] were to be reminded that one of the ways America was great was that the land and air were cleaner, that many animals going extinct today were thriving, and that people could enjoy skiing every winter without worrying about the lack of snow, reversing the effects of climate change to get us back to that place might become a priority,” said Dr. Matthew Baldwin, one of the lead researchers on this study.

Another explanation for these results could be a generational difference. Since conservatives are older on average, the future – of the environment, and in general – just isn’t as important to them. If they can’t imagine themselves having to live in a disastrous future, there’s less incentive for them to worry about it now.

Either way, this type of research is imperative in the fight against climate change. As compelling as the science is, the current rhetoric on this subject has failed to win over enough of the U.S. population to result in extensive policy change. Understanding other ways to talk about this issue could make all the difference in converting the contrarians – and, in turn, saving the planet. However you want to talk about it, it appears as though we could find common goals.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Chen Boon Fook
Chen Boon Fook2 years ago


Nang Hai C
Nang Hai C2 years ago

Thank you for posting

Marie W
Marie W2 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Chun Lai T
Chun Lai T2 years ago


Leong S
Leong S2 years ago


George L
George L2 years ago

Thanks for the information

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

This can work I think, but we are at a point where no matter what people think/feel: we need science and the planet should be protected. Period. Thanks for the tip though

Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Greedy planet destroying human trash that call themselves "conservative" are simply garbage. Useless criminal people who should never have been born. Worse than the criminals in the inner city ghettos.

Karin G
Karin Geens2 years ago


Mina X
Past Member 2 years ago

Just wondering if the liberal millennial twits (or Hillary's Haters, since they are the ones causing such discord) think their generation started the Sierra Club, the Audubon, WWF, American Farmland Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, National Parks Conservation Assoc-NPCA, Native Forest Council, etc etc.? Because if they do, they are as delusional as the sheep buying this bigoted crap!