What to do About Climate Deniers? Ignore Them

EPAAt some point you and I were presented with the facts about climate change. How we first heard is different for all of us. When, where, who told us and how urgently the problem was presented, are all variables unique to each of us. Why some accept the science and become activists, why some understand the science but choose to do nothing and why some reject the science and become deniers is beyond me.

The question is, how should we deal with the deniers? To this I say, Ignore them. It is true that reading comments on Facebook and Twitter from deniers can be very frustrating, to say the least, but it is a matter of doing the best we can with the limited time and energy we have.

Deniers operate on their own facts so it’s never a real debate. The world(s) we live in allow us to get our news from sources that reinforce our own point of view and this often makes it impossible to ever hope to change someone’s mind. The only time I heard of someone doing a 180 degree turn on their denial was when they had the time, resources and know-how to do an independent inquiry of the data, a rare occurrence.

Our time is better spent elsewhere. There are many in our country that do accept the science but don’t see the urgency or maybe they don’t want to be seen as an “environmentalist” or a liberal or maybe the issue and the solutions are too wonky and, in their minds, best left up to others. These are often good people who love their kids, get up every day, work hard, are conscientious and care about the future but grassroots engagement with a government official is just foreign to them.

It is a waste of precious resources to bang our heads against the brick wall that is deniers. Going head-to-head with a denier takes its toll emotionally and intellectually. If you are an activist, we need you to take care of yourself, to be in the fight and not allow yourself to burn out because you are engaging with those who would like nothing more than for you to quit.

Deniers have access to the same data climate scientists rely on and they reject it. As arrogant as that is, it is their prerogative. Argument-wise, there is nowhere to go from there. You could say to someone, “science tells us, based on centuries of a strict application of the scientific method that 99.99 percent of scientists agree that gravity makes things fall to the ground. Then, a gravity-denier could say, “no it doesn’t.” Where do you go from there? You could say, “yes it does” or restate the basis for your assertion but they could respond with, “I know a guy who has data that proves that trees cause things to fall to the ground.” Where do you go from there? More importantly, should you go there? What is the point?

That effort is better spent convincing those who do accept the science to speak up. Grassroots pressure is time well spent. It’s not easy; we are often fighting against powerful interests. However, calling, writing letters and e-mails, visits, marches, donations to grassroots based groups is the best way to fight for solutions. It never feels like it is working, until it is. Ask anyone who has fought for civil rights or marriage equality. You often don’t know if progress is years away or just around the corner. You have to just fight on and have faith.

Lastly, the best excuse to not engage deniers is because we need to save some energy for after we have “won.” Again, ask someone who has fought for civil rights or marriage equality, the fight goes on after the victory. A lot of time and effort is currently being spent on defending the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, an actual plan to address the largest source of carbon pollution, power plants.

It is better to support a group like RepublicEN. They are stepping out from their party because they see what is happening and want to have their say in the solution. That seems fair and this problem is too big to worry about winning a partisan battle for its own sake. We just need solutions that work, wherever they come from.

The climate crisis is too important to waste any of our precious time and effort on things that will produce no fruit. As tempting (and yes, I’ve indulged) as it is too fire off the perfect zinger at a denier, resist the temptation and instead, invite someone to a rally or write a letter.