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Book Review

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case For Hope and Healing in a Divided World
by Katharine Hayhoe
Reviewed by John Horseley

Faced with the alarming predictions of climate scientists many people no doubt think “I know it’s serious but what can I do about it?” Katharine Hayhoe, a renowned climate scientist who is also an evangelical Christian, has the answer – you can talk about it.

However, as Katherine Hayhoe points out, engaging in conversations with people on climate change must be done in the right way. Talking about the science is often not effective as people will tend to reject facts that challenge their identity or their political views. Even if people are inclined to believe the science, fear leads to denial if they are not presented with solutions. Instead connect through something in common that you both care about, that is, through the heart not the head, and then connect this to why you care about climate change. It is also important to propose solutions that the other person can accept. Too often climate change is denied because people don’t like the solutions being proposed (too much regulation and government interference).

Katherine Hayhoe does not dismiss our personal responsibility to take steps to reduce our carbon footprint. She does not believe that individual choices are going to get us anywhere close to the goals of the Paris’s agreement but sees reducing our carbon footprint as a moral issue – she does it because “it’s the right thing to do” and it’s important to her to feel she is doing her part. This is perhaps too pessimistic an assessment of the impact of individual choices, such as buying an electric car, which can cumulatively be significant, but there is no doubt that the highest priority is political and systemic change to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It just this kind of systemic change that Katherine Hayhoe believes is advanced by talking to people about climate change.

Some people, who Katherine Hayhoe calls “dismissives”, will never be convinced that the climate crisis is real, so it is not possible to engage in a productive dialogue with them (fortunately they represent only 7% of the population). Based on psychological studies and her own experience Katrina Hayhoe provides much practical advice on how to conduct productive conversations with the other 93% and inspire people to take action. (Her advice is quite general and could usefully be applied to other areas where dialogue is needed).

Recent developments, such as the misnamed Inflation Reduction Act and the pledges made at COP26 and COP27 have given some cause for hope that the worst consequences of climate change can be avoided. Nevertheless, Katherine Hayhoe is right – we need to move faster. Productive conversations about the climate crisis can lead to collective action to bring about the necessary political change. “Saving Us” is a lively, well-written guidebook on how to have these conversations that hopefully will prove useful to many people who have been hesitant to “jump in” until now.

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