Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Psychology Today author Patricia Prijatel thinks the silence of Germans oppressed by the NAZIs is comparable to not talking about the alleged dangers of anthropogenic climate change.
Can We Break the Spiral of Silence on Climate Change?
There’s only one way to find out: Talk about it
Posted Mar 30, 2018
What can ordinary people do to combat the extraordinary problem of climate change? Talk, and keep on talking. Yet, that’s a step some of us are reluctant to take.
According to a report by the Yale Program on Climate Change(link is external), 69 percent of respondents in the United States believe global warming is happening, and 56 percent are worried about it. But (link is external)fewer than a third of those (link is external)ever talk about it to family or friends. Why not? Often because nobody else is talking about it.
The Spiral of Silence
Researchers call this the spiral of silence, a term coined by researcher Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann(link is external) to explain why Germans did not talk about the rise of Hitler and his related atrocities before and during World War II. They echoed the silence around them. Meanwhile, those in support of the Third Reich spoke loud and clear. In so doing, they controlled the discussion, no matter how many people might have disagreed with their opinions. Because the pro-Hitler voices were heard most, they were accepted as public opinion. Early in Hitler’s rise to power, when talking could have done the most to change history, those who broke the silence were faced with social isolation. Later, of course, breaking the silence could be deadly.
This has clear application in our current political climate, although fortunately the risks of speaking out don’t include concentration camps. Those who talk loudest now deny climate change, or at least the human involvement in it, calling it a natural progression of eon’s old environmental change. This makes it appear that climate change denial is a more popular sentiment than climate change acceptance. It is not. According to the Yale program, only 34 percent of those surveyed (link is external)in the U.S. deny the role of humans in global warming. Yet, those who have both the science and public opinion on their side remain astonishingly quiet.
What a bizarre conflation of ideas.
Scientists who criticise climate dogma sometimes face serious risks to their careers. For example, Peter Ridd is facing a lawsuit because he defied a gag order from James Cook University in Australia, after he criticised climate hype.
Outside academia, where there are real penalties for criticising the scientific claims of colleagues, I suspect the reason most people don’t discuss climate change is most people find it boring.