Twitter is proving to be an important forum for sharing research among climate researchers, as well as activists seeking to take action to stop pipelines or criticize politicians who have failed to reduce pollution. But now many people are fleeing Twitter The rise of climate misinformation, spam, and even threats has strained our relationship with the platform.
Scientists and advocates told the Guardian that there has been a recent resurgence of climate change denialism on Twitter, disturbingly so, and the term #ClimateScam frequently pops up when searching for “climate” on the site.
Twitter is a mess under Elon Musk exploded disbanded content management teams and platforms stability arm and bans were lifted Several prominent users with millions of followers include Donald Trump and Jordan Peterson, a right-wing columnist who supports lies about the climate crisis. The changes were overwhelming for some climate experts.
“Since Musk took over, I’ve been using Twitter less and less to find news and share science,” said Twila Moon, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who has been concerned for years. If trust in Twitter collapses, communication between scientists may be disrupted.
“I am particularly concerned that those who have noticed the rise of climate denial and disinformation are concerned that this could slow down climate action, with negative economic, social and health impacts,” he said.
Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, says he has no plans to quit Twitter, but has noticed climate misinformation “getting a little on the nose and defunct climate deniers re-emerging and climate change.” denial is a little more appealing.”
Mann created a profile on a new social media site called Mastodon, an alternative to Twitter, and was joined by other climate scientists who were unhappy with Musk’s position. “Now I don’t think it’s important to be on Twitter, there are more interesting conversations Happening at MastodonBob Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, expressed concern on Twitter ending the policy He says the Covid-19 misinformation “tends to parallel” climate denialism.
Musk, a self-proclaimed defender of free speech and previously praised by environmentalists for running electric car firm Tesla, said: “Twitter obviously can’t be a public hell.” But his recent actions show that “he’s interested in a massive cage fight around the world. If that happens, we’ll get permission,” said Ed Maibach, a climate expert at George Mason University, who said many in the climate community have discussed leaving the site. announced.
Since July, three months before Musk took over the site for $44 billion, Twitter content with the words #ClimateScam, “climate scam” or “weather is a scam” has surged, with more than 500,000 mentions of the terms since then. according to the analysis Climate action against disinformation alliance. The opaque nature of Twitter’s algorithm makes it unclear why this happened, the coalition said.
There’s no evidence that there are more articles with “climate fraud” than “climate emergency” or other terms, or that they’re getting more engagement, so it’s a bit puzzling why it’s the top search term. we are scratching our heads. “said Jenny King, head of civil liberties at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which is part of the coalition.
“I understand that climate scientists are saying that this is not a productive place to talk to each other. They have become a shining light for hate speech and death threats, and we are seeing a real increase in threats against them aimed at driving them off the platform.”
King said there is a “new momentum” on Twitter for spreading unsubstantiated claims about the climate crisis, particularly through popular accounts turning issues like abortion and LGBTQ+ rights into other major conflicts.
Peterson, a Canadian psychologist and media personality, recently returned to Twitter after Musk was banned. reinforced about climate change, tweeting a dozen or more times in a single day to his 3.5 million followers.
The right-wing spokesman shares the debunked theory that excess carbon dioxide is good for the world, that “automobile freedom” is threatened by efforts to reduce car pollution, and that climate activists want to “create jealousy and violent destruction.”
“Peterson is a big brand because his brand transcends the environment, but now he’s doubling down on the environment,” King said. “Time and time again, we’ve seen these climate-denial and pro-delay accounts spread misinformation about election fraud, racial politics, and reproductive rights, among other topics.”
False claims about the climate crisis have been made by the fossil fuel industry and various conservative figures for decades, but in the last two years there is evidence that climate polarization has increased on social media. A recent study According to a study by researchers in the UK and Italy, there was a fourfold increase in “anti-right” climate talk on Twitter during the UN’s Cop 26 climate talks last year compared to the 2015 summit.
The rise of minority voices on climate issues, who argue that climate action advocates are somehow hypocrites or that emissions reductions are pointless and expensive, is fueled by the firebombing of anti-climate activists by so-called right-wing politicians in the US and Europe. It has become more popular in recent years, researchers say.
Andrea Baroncelli, a researcher at City University London and co-author of the study, said: “We have entered a new era in the climate change dialogue, one in which there is a decline in trust and a lack of communication between groups that disagree.” “If you’re in the same camp, you don’t have to be exposed to the camp’s views, other than making fun of them.”
For climate scientists, the crackdown has raised concerns that once-popular online networks like Twitter will be given over to conspiracy theorists and others with no experience of global warming. Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at Brown University, also moved to Mastodon, but lamented that compared to Twitter, it felt “pretty bland and pretty.”
“As someone who has followed a lot of women scientists and scientists of color, I notice the absence of these precious voices,” she said.
“Maybe they’ve left Twitter, or they’ve gone silent, or their network has deteriorated to the point where I don’t see them retweeting each other. Twitter is a shadow of its former self when it comes to climate change.”