We need to act quickly to keep global warming below 1.5°C, but the proliferation of climate disinformation on the internet threatens stymie global efforts to prevent it.
But what do we mean when we say “climate disinformation”? As our grasp of the climate catastrophe improves and scientific consensus grows, the methods used by those who oppose change to spread their arguments have become more sophisticated.
Stop Funding Heat discovered 113 Facebook ads with statements like “climate change is a hoax” between January and October of this year. These advertisements cost between €50,000 and €65,000 to produce.
And it’s not simply deceptive advertising that’s generating issues. Another recent study found that major corporations spend $2.6 billion (€2.3 billion) every year on advertising on websites that disseminate misinformation on a number of topics, including climate change.
Harriet Kingaby, co-founder of the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN), tells Euronews Green, “It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that, sadly, is sponsored through advertising and proliferates in our online spaces, including the social media platforms we all use.” “We’ve been trying to get people to take action on climate change for years. And we’ve had to fight folks who spread doubt and uncertainty for years.”
According to the group Influence Map, oil firms spent $574,000 in advertising in the United States during COP26 on Facebook alone. With a total of 22.6 million visitors, the campaign was a success.
From denial to the politics of postponing climate action, there’s a lot to consider.
Outright climate denial communications have become rather easy to recognize for those of us on social media. However, as climate change research gets more definite, misinformation changes and becomes more difficult to spot.
“We’ve witnessed a transition from denial communications—such as reiterating that climate change is a hoax and doesn’t exist—to far more sophisticated delaying messages,” Kingaby continues.
“This includes, for example, arguing that we should wait until another country acts, or that we don’t need to act right away, or even that climate change has no solution.”
Redirecting responsibility, supporting non-transformative solutions, emphasizing the drawbacks of action, and ultimately, giving up: the belief that climate change cannot be averted, are four of the most common strands of this “delay” approach found by the scientists.
According to the study, the variety of reasoning used to try to prevent action changes swiftly as the public debate around the current situation changes.
Detecting the danger
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue and over ten climate NGOs monitored misinformation on a regular basis during COP26. They discovered that internet content was becoming increasingly radical across the board, ranging from “culture conflicts” to conspiracies, pseudoscience, and “outright denial,” according to the researchers.
The Global Disinformation Index also discovered that the quantity of misinformation spread online grew each time an announcement was made in the run-up to the climate conference.
People must comprehend and support the solutions for an event like COP26 to result in meaningful action, which is impossible when science is questioned or fake solutions are provided that do not address the root causes of the problem.
According to Kingaby, “climate misinformation effectively undermines everything that is being promoted.”
That’s why CAN, along with 250 other signatories, including Avaaz, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Center to Counter Digital Hate, has sent an open letter to the UN urging the UN to take action against climate disinformation.
The open letter urges international leaders and social media companies to create a precise definition of what misinformation, including climate disinformation, is in order to identify and solve the problem.
The term “climate disinformation” is defined as “false information about climate change.”
“A few years ago, Harvard University published a research claiming that disinformation spreads six times quicker than the truth in our social networks,” Kingaby said.
“It usually manifests itself in ways that imply we’re about to lose something.”
That isn’t to say that there isn’t place for multiple points of view. It is crucial to protect the right to free speech, but, as Kingaby points out, there is no right to charge for items that violate certain bounds.
“With the amount of space that climate disinformation takes up, it actually harms freedom of speech if we make it up as we go along.”
As a result, he explains, definitions are critical in defining what is acceptable and what is not. The United Nations, for example, has already developed a definition of hate speech that allows us to recognize the kind of content that might injure people in real life.
Having a definition would help to draw the boundary between what is and is not acceptable. CAN collaborated with groups and climate experts to develop a definition, which it now hopes will be adopted by the UN and technology platforms.
It is possible to put an end to misinformation.
One of the world’s largest tech companies is already paying attention to what CAN has to say on the matter.
“Google made an announcement and formed a climate disinformation policy earlier this year. We collaborated with them on that “Kingaby clarifies.
The corporation announced a new policy that “prohibits ads and monetization of content that disputes the existence and causes of climate change,” which was established in collaboration with the group.
This comes after a slew of digital and social media businesses took action to combat COVID-19 misinformation by including counter-facts in posts regarding vaccines and the pandemic. This, according to CAN, establishes a precedent for what they could do with climate change data.
“We know it’s doable,” the co-founder of CAN adds.
“What we really want is for other organizations to take this as a model and say, “Hey, it’s been done before, and it’s been done before, and it’s been done before, and it’s been done before, and it’s been done before, and it’s been done before, and it’s been done before, and it And we believe that if it occurs, we will be able to produce something truly exceptional.”
Article Author Gerluxe Image: Euronews