Here's why climate denial is still thriving online

Despite platforms like TikTok forbidding climate denial, an intense worldwide heat wave has been attributed to climate change. However, internet misinformation has developed to refute the facts.The hottest week ever recorded began on July 3 with record-breaking global temperatures as the planet was engulfed in severe heat waves. The Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London’s Friederike Otto described the heat as “a death sentence for people and ecosystems.”The next day, though, political journalist Isabel Oakeshott in the UK tweeted that “climate change headbangers fretting about a few hot days last month may relax down… 13 degrees, and it is pouring. She continued by stating that she was “about to light the woodburner.” Over 2.2 million people saw the tweet in a day.Former Sunday Times editor Oakeshott, a commentator on the conservative TalkTV news channel, frequently tweets about “climate change nuts.” She questioned, “Where’s Greta when it’s woolly jumpers in July?” on July 5.How does such denial persist in the face of the worst heat waves ever recorded in the United States, China, Mexico, Siberia, and elsewhere, as well as the nearly universal scientific agreement that people have caused global warming, largely by burning fossil fuels?Although over 65% of individuals across a variety of ages in more than 50 nations agreed that climate change is a “global emergency,” researchers have observed a recent upsurge in scepticism and denial.Anecdotally, comments on DW’s Planet A TikTok channel promote outright denial while also casting doubt on potential alternatives, such the switch to clean energy.Climate change is a myth. All that matters is the money. It’s unfortunate that you alarmed kids. After DW posted a video about teenage activists suing the state of Montana for not doing more to address the climate catastrophe, one viewer commented, “You should be ashamed of yourself.Another person commented, hinting that renewable energy is not a reliable power supply despite wind and solar being the cheapest and fastest-growing energy sources, “So how are they going to charge their EVs when there is no electricity?”
According to John Cook, a climatologist and senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne who also writes the Sceptical Science blog that has long disproved climate disinformation, these are outdated rhetorical techniques that are now more focused on solutions than climate science. He said, the assertion that “solutions will be harmful” or “solutions won’t work” is a repackaging of earlier criticisms about the price of addressing climate change from the 1990s.The global Centre for Countering Digital Hate’s (CCDH) Callum Hood, director of research, declared that “the goal posts have moved.” In order to ultimately delay the energy transition, climate denial now uses misdirection and “sows doubt”. According to this line of reasoning, “doing something is worse than doing nothing,” Hood said, referencing the concept of “climate inactivism” as coined by climate researcher and author Michael Mann.”There are clear vulnerabilities in the way social media platforms are designed and governed at present which allows such content to rise to the surface,” said Jennie King, head of climate research & policy at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a global think tank that studies extremism and disinformation.These platforms have been designed with a “algorithmic bias” that creates “echo chambers” to make users “susceptible to consume, accept, and spread misinformation,” according to Kathie Treen of the University of Exeter and co-author of a 2020 paper on internet misinformation and climate change.But where did this false information come from? 69% of interactions with climate denial content on Facebook come from ten “superpolluter” publications, including right-wing US news site Breitbart and state-run Russian media. in accordance with a CCDH study. In order to “prevent consensus on facts and solutions,” the report stated that these “toxic ten” publish overt climate denial and amplify it on Facebook.This is conceivable, according to the report’s co-author Callum Hood, because Facebook did not uphold a 2021 commitment to identify postings that promote climate denial with links to accurate information. Only 8% of the most popular Facebook posts that contained the false material spread by the toxic ten had labels.Hood stated that “Google promised it would not monetize climate denial.” However, the large tech corporation gave the “toxic ten” $3.6 million in ad income during a six-month period as they promoted climate denial.
Researchers have discovered that in the run-up to the COP 27 UN climate conference, “fossil fuel sector-linked entities” paid Meta, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, over $4 million for advertisements.The purpose was “to spread false, misleading claims on the climate crisis, net-zero targets, and necessity of fossil fuels prior to and during COP27,” according to a report by the Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a global research coalition. Most of these came from Energy Citizens, a peak oil advocacy group affiliated with the American Petroleum Institute.In recent years, there have been interlocking crises in the areas of health, cost of living, energy, and inflation, as Jennie King noted.Her words “historic wealth inequality” and “historic erosion of trust in institutions” have served to worsen what she has referred to as “a global ecosystem for disinformation.”When the term “climate lockdown” first appeared on social media and promoters said the lockdown was a practise run for an impending wave of “green tyranny,” King explained, it was clear that “genuine trauma” was being weaponized.She said that the hashtag #ClimateScam, whose owner Elon Musk has subsequently been accused of spreading false information about climate change, is typical of a rebirth of online climate denial. It mysteriously rose to the top of users’ Twitter searches for climate in mid-2022.A tried-and-true tactic of pro-fossil fuel political parties, notably Germany’s far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany), is to take advantage of the expense of living and energy problems associated to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while downplaying concerns about the climate issue.TikTok also made a vow to stop hosting content that denies climate change in April. However, Jennie King argues that such efforts at content filtering are “crude” and “unenforceable,” adding that “denying climate change is not a crime.”
She is of the opinion that the best course of action would be to “demonetize” climate denial, something that major tech corporations have so far mostly failed to achieve.John Cook, on the other hand, has long argued in favour of “pre-emptive inoculating messages” that support the scientific consensus on climate change while dispelling “climate disbeliefs” by exposing “the flawed argumentation technique used in the misinformation.”The fight against climate disinformation requires a multifaceted strategy, according to Kathie Treen, and includes education, immunisation, correction, and measures by the platforms.

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