Climate skepticism is on the rise on Twitter

Are climate skeptics an endangered species? Not really.

According to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, climate skepticism is growing four times faster than pro-climate content on Twitter. Why? Explanations.

Climate skepticism flourishes on Twitter

Type the keyword climate (climate) in Twitter’s search bar and see… First suggested result: ClimateScam (climate fraud), followed by Climate Action (acts for climate) then Climate Emergencies (emergency climate). The tone is set.

Importance of climate-skeptic posts confirmed by analysis of tweets covering 2014-2021 during annual conferences of the Conference of the Parties (COP) Alan Turing Institute. While the study highlights the strong online connection created by COPs, it also shows thatclimate skeptic tweets were shared 16 times more During COP26 compared to COP21.

2019: a turning point in the rise of skepticism

Another finding the study found was that if climate change polarization on Twitter had been lower during COP21, 2019 would have seen a “tipping point in the rise of skepticism.” According to the researchers, these are the reasons for this increase. mainly explained by three elements: the issue of political hypocrisy (following the approval of a new oil pipeline in Canada in June 2019), the reaction to the direct impact of global climate strikes (with Greta Thunberg’s scathing criticism and extinction revolt), and the belief that the climate movement is unreliable (2020 considering the criminal origin of Australian fires in 2008).

Among the main arguments raised by researchers are the following denies climate change or the impact of human activity on it.

COP researchers also a split between pro-climate regarding whether or not to support this annual meeting. Indeed, many accounts have criticized the process, characterizing it as ineffective and accusing it of “greenwashing”. A change from COP21, where only 7% expressed a critical opinion about the convention, compared to 35% for COP26.

Political hypocrisy, a bridge between climate advocates and climate skeptics

In order to understand the content that bridges the “ideological gap between the two groups,” the researchers sought to assess topics that could act as bridges. “Because Twitter recommends content based on user-content interactions between accounts,” the study authors said. Thus, they identified the theme of political hypocrisy (the use of private jets and diesel cars, the continued development of fossil fuels, underinvestment in renewable energies, etc.) as one of the main doors. One that highlights that these tweets higher virality, Alan Turing Institute Senior Scientist Mark Girolami calls for political accountability. According to him: ” Rapid and effective action against the climate crisis requires international consensus and cooperation. If increasing online polarization increases antagonism over climate action, the political deadlock is breaking. Policymakers need to ask what exactly is driving this rise in online skepticism and find ways to counter it. »

If we refer to the words of former US President Donald Trump, who repeatedly confirmed that global warming is a myth, we take the measure of the researcher’s words. It will also be remembered that the man who withdrew his country from the Paris Agreement on June 1, 2017 said that “the concept of global warming was created by the Chinese to make American industry uncompetitive.”

Social networks work like echo chambers

The researchers were interested in the sources of information used by climate supporters and climate skeptics. NewsGuard a score that allows you to assess the reliability of information sites. Report? The first group mainly refers to news agencies with “high trust scores”, while the second group refers to sources with “low trust scores”.

To describe this phenomenon, researchers refer to the “echo chamber effect.” According to Andrea Baroncelli of City University London, a disturbing observation: “ Social media act as echo chambers, that is, sounding boards where prejudices are amplified.. It is important that regulators continue to look for ways to ensure that content shared online is safe. »

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