resurgence of conspiracy theories
Climate change misinformation has proliferated online in 2022, researchers say, pointing to the impact of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, which reinstated many banned accounts.
“What really surprised us this year was the resurgence of language reminiscent of the 1980s: phrases like ‘climate hoax’ and ‘climate fraud’ denying the phenomenon of climate change,” said Jennie King of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. (ISD), a London-based think tank.
Among the most popular false claims are that CO2 does not play a role in climate change or that global warming is not caused by human activity, Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of associations, reports.
An analysis of Twitter posts for AFP by two computer scientists at City University London found 1.1 million tweets or retweets using climate-skeptic terms in 2022.
That’s almost twice as much as in 2021, according to researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baroncelli, who noted that climate change misinformation peaked in December, a month after the COP27 summit and billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.
The American group Center for Combating Digital Hate (CCDH) pointed the finger at Elon Musk, who reinstated many banned Twitter accounts and opened the option to pay for a verified account.
– “Climate Scam” –
“Elon Musk’s decision to open up his platform to hate and misinformation has led to an explosion of climate misinformation on the platform,” said Callum Hood, head of research at CCHR.
The American billionaire himself warned about the dangers of global warming in August 2022 and assessed it as a “big risk”.
According to analysis by CAAD and CCDH, the use of the hashtag #ClimateScam has exploded on Twitter since July 2022.
For weeks, it was even the most suggested search term on the site for Internet users typing in the word “climate.”
A quarter of all climate-skeptic tweets came from just 10 accounts, including Maxime Bernier, leader of Canada’s right-wing populist party, and Paul Joseph Watson, editor of the conspiracy theory website InfoWars.
Other social networks are also affected.
According to Advance Democracy (ADI), videos using hashtags related to climate change denial on TikTok gained 4.9 million views.
A search for the videos often returned ads for climate-skeptic products.
The ads were later removed, YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez told AFP.
TikTok and Twitter declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
– Other fake news –
On the contrary, ADI on Facebook found that the number of such posts decreased compared to 2021.
In its report, CAAD notes that climate-skeptic content is routinely linked to election fraud, vaccinations, the Covid pandemic, migration, and other misinformation…
“There is no doubt that we are witnessing the proliferation of conspiracy theories. Climate is the new divisive topic in the discussion of ideas,” ISD’s Jenny King emphasizes.
The vast majority of world scientists agree that humanity is warming the planet by burning fossil fuels.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called for climate change mitigation in its 2021 report, saying, “It is clear that human influence is warming the atmosphere, oceans and land. CO2 emissions as much as possible” to avoid the worst consequences of this global warming.
“We encourage platforms to think about the very real consequences of climate change,” insists CCDH’s Callum Hood. “Repeatedly spreading blatantly false climate information should not have the current audience.”