"Many of Trump's supporters doubt climate science... even those who are feeling its effects in their own backyards," Samantha Bee said on her show, "Full Frontal," this week.
When correspondent Allana Harkin visits the small island of Tangier, Virginia, in the Chesapeake Bay, Mayor James Eskridge (along with other residents) insists the island is disappearing due to "erosion, not sea level rise." Harkin points out, "as evangelicals, they're among those Americans least likely to believe in climate change."
"You could never change my mind," says George, a Tangier Island resident. When Harkin admits she believes in evolution, Mayor Eskridge says, "We'll put you on the prayer list."
Thankfully for the people of Tangier Island, Harkin isn't alone in her efforts to change their minds about the reality of global warming. David Schulte, a marine biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has studied the island for 15 years and continues to try to combat residents' inability to accept the climate crisis before it's too late. He informs Harkin that the island isn't an isolated case, and that similar cases will occur in many regions of the U.S.
For advice on how to "have a respectful conversation about climate change," Harkin turns to Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. Hayhoe is a "climate scientist who knows how to speak to evangelical Christians, because she is one herself."
Dr. Hayhoe tells Harkin, "Just saying, 'Oh, God will take care of it,' or, 'It doesn't matter,' is actually a profoundly un-Christian perspective, and in the Bible, it says God will destroy those who destroy the earth."
She advises Harkin that "the first way to connect [with climate change deniers] is to listen—rather than coming in, saying, 'I know,' 'I'm gonna tell you,' 'You listen to me.'" Harkin's translation of Dr. Hayhoe's advice: "Share from the heart, and don't be a dick."
Hayhoe continues, "And then you ask them for their stories: 'Have you noticed anything changing?'"
Harkin takes this advice and runs with it, leaving residents in stunned and smiling silence when she asks, "What if climate scientists are actually doing God's work?"
This little breakthrough offers a ray of hope for the future. As Harkin observes: "Did we listen to each other? Sorta."