It is easy to be dismissive of the Climate Change / Global Warming Deniers1, but it is a mistake to ignore them.
The fact is the Denial machine has been effective, that’s why industry funds it. Polls show almost half of US citizen’s think that the current warming / climate change is natural. Lest you think this is perhaps due to the complexity of the climate issue or some such, I note that it is about the same number of people who are unsure if Obama is a Muslim. Hardly a complex issue, but one which is also plagued by lies and disinformation.
In fact, regardless of the issue, the mere presence of a dissenting voice significantly shifts peoples perception of what is ‘fact’ regardless of the logic or strength of the facts presented. The Deniers know this and it is why they always fight for a presence on the stage.
It is also why the media’s faux objectivity has the effect of undermining climate science no matter how rational or sane the presentation is. Of course when the Deniers have the stage to themselves they are even more successful, which is why it is important to confront the Deniers at every opportunity.
This cuts both ways though. The Deniers are less effective when there is a dissenting voice speaking up. Whether it is on an internet forum or at the dinner table, the Denier’s impact is undermined when people speak up.
As the Deniers know too well, repetition of the same message also tends to make it more effective. Never be the passive observer just because you feel someone else is (or should/could be) doing a better job. Add your voice (or comment/letter/other).
Popular attitudes do not change as a consequence of public information campaigns or media coverage, they are changed by people interacting with one another. The proverbial “silence is consent” is true; the ‘…ist’ jokes continue until members of the community start objecting to them as they happen. We did not make real progress on issues like sexism and racism until people started confronting these behaviours in their day to day lives.
It goees without saying that you should talk about the issue regardless, but most particularly when the Deniers have the stage.
Granted it can be hard to be the lone voice, but it has been found that once 1/3rd of a group changes their behaviour it spreads rapidly through the whole group up to 80% or 90% (a lot of variables here). That first 1/3rd is a struggle, but after that more and more people speak up and the group behaviour shifts.
Never waste your time arguing one to one with a Denier or a group of Deniers. To change the group you need to get that 1/3rd, and you will not find converts among the Deniers. Skeptics may be interested in truth, but Deniers are ideologically motived and facts will not sway them. In fact, for the ideologically motivated debate will often make their opinions more entrenched regardless of the facts.
The point is that it is performance. You are playing to the gallery and should act accordingly. Always engage the Deniers when there is an audience (and only when there is an audience, although one on one can be good for rehearsal). The performance is for convincing the audience not “your opponent”, so craft your message for them.
Speak up always. At dinner, on the bus, on forums and your blog or social network (don’t bother with Denier blogs though; they may scream about censorship, but they happily practice it themselves).
Be the dissenting voice, or the one who repeats the message, or the one who tips the group balance. Your voice always matters, it always makes a difference. It may not be decisive in that moment but it makes a difference, and it may even make the difference.
1 As I discuss here I do not use the term “Denier” to refer to all climate change doubters. Those who thoughtfully and intelligently address the facts I call ’skeptics’.
Those who irrationally deny the existence of the science and instead propagate the lies and distortions such as those discussed here and linked to the right under “Debunking Denier Nonsense” are “Deniers”.
The choice of the correct term is based on their actions, not their conclusions.
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