Climate disinformation is exploding on Twitter

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Lies about climate change on Twitter escalated to unprecedented levels this year, according to new analysis. The nerve-racking rise of content that rejects widely accepted climate science – also referred to as climate skepticism or climate denial – is piling up on top of the growing concern about misinformation and hateful content that has spread since Elon Musk’s takeover of the social media platform.

According to an analysis conducted for The times by means of City, researchers from the University of London. That’s 850,000 climate skeptical tweets or retweets this year compared to 650,000 in 2021 and 220,000 in 2020.

“Climate denial on Twitter was already a dumpster; now it’s like a liter of gasoline has been thrown over it,” says climate scientist Katharine said Hayhoe The times.

“Climate denial on Twitter was already a dumpster; now it is as if a liter of petrol has been poured over it.”

Much of the recent increase in climate disinformation can be linked to a single hashtag: “#climatescam.” It makes up about 40 percent of tweets containing climate-skeptical language this year, City, University of London researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baronchelli found. That’s compared to just 2 percent before 2022.

Now “#climatecam” appears as a top result when searching for “#climate” on Twitter. The hashtag provides a buffet of false information about climate change. One popular post includes an image that defines “manmade climate change” as “the fabricated catastrophe that the globalists/socialists use to instill fear and guilt to tax, regulate and abolish our freedoms while pretend to save the planet.”

Another popular meme tweeted using #climatescam features what appears to be an altered image of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons with his finger in his nose. “The TV told me if I eat bugs and pay more money to the government, the weather will be better,” the meme says.

The overwhelming amount of research confirms that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels cause climate change. A major United Nations climate science report published last year by 230 authors from 66 countries concluded that human activities are primarily responsible for more frequent extreme weather on the planet.

Nevertheless, misinformation about climate change exploded on Twitter in November as delegates from around the world gathered for a major United Nations climate conference. Use of #climatescam in tweets doubled from October to November, appearing in 23,832 posts last month. That was 17 times more than the hashtag was used in an average month in 2021, according to another analysis conducted for The times by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Repeat offenders seem to send much of the climate disinformation on Twitter. Just 10 Twitter handles accounted for a quarter of recent widely shared climate skeptical content. Musk’s decision to welcome back people previously banned from the platform has also allowed people to return who push content that contradicts mainstream climate science. So is Canadian personality Jordan Peterson, who was initially kicked off Twitter in July over tweets misrepresenting trans actor Elliot Page. Recently, Peterson took to Twitter to bemoan efforts to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, which research says is needed by mid-century to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. pre-industrial times.

Meanwhile, actual climate scientists and experts weigh in on leaving Twitter, The protector reports, because the platform does not moderate malicious content. Separately, the Center for Countering Digital Hate has also noted an increase in hate speech on Twitter since Musk took control. Twitter, which effectively disbanded its media relations team amid layoffs in November, did not respond to a request for comment from The edge.

“I can understand climate scientists saying that this is no longer a productive place for conversations with each other. They have become lightning rods for hate speech and death threats. We are seeing a real escalation of threats against them, designed to drive them off the platform,” said Jennie King, chief of citizen action and education at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, to The protector.

Update December 5, 1:50 PM ET: This post has been updated with Katharine Hayhoe’s full name and title.

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