Wednesday Dec 07 2022
Web Desk

Twitter now full of climate misinformation

Web Desk
Figurines with computers and smartphones are seen in front of Twitter logo in this illustration, July 24, 2022.— Reuters
Figurines with computers and smartphones are seen in front of Twitter logo in this illustration, July 24, 2022.— Reuters

According to fresh analysis, climate change lies on Twitter reached previously unheard-of heights this year. Along with growing worries about inaccurate information and offensive content that have grown since Elon Musk's takeover, there has been an unsettling growth in material that contests widely accepted climate science, sometimes known as climate scepticism or climate denial.

Since Twitter's inception in 2006, there have been more tweets and retweets "using climate-sceptic rhetoric" in 2022 than in any other year, according to research done for The Times by researchers at City, University of London. This year has seen 850,000 tweets or retweets from climate sceptics as opposed to 650,000 in 2021 and 220,000 in 2020.

“Climate denial on Twitter was already a dumpster fire; now, it’s as if it had a litre of gas thrown on it,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told The Times.

A single hashtag, "#climatescam," is responsible for a large portion of the current increase in climate misinformation. According to researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baronchelli it accounts for over 40% of tweets this year that contain words supporting climate change. Before 2022, that percentage was only 2%.

The hashtag, when searched on the social media site, takes users to false information about climate change 

One popular post says “manmade climate change” is “the made up catastrophe the globalists/socialists use to instil fear and guilt to tax, regulate, and remove our freedoms while pretending to be saving the planet.”

Another well-known joke that was posted with the hashtag #climatescam shows what appears to be an altered version of The Simpsons' Ralph Wiggum with his finger in his nose. "The TV told me that if I eat bugs and pay more money to the government the weather will be gooder," said the meme.

The vast majority of scientific evidence supports the idea that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are what's causing climate change. According to a significant United Nations climate science assessment written by 230 authors from 66 nations and released last year, human activity is mostly to blame for the increased frequency of extreme weather worldwide.

Nevertheless, as delegates from all around the world gathered for a significant United Nations climate summit in November, false information about climate change erupted on Twitter. 

From October to November, the number of tweets including the hashtag #climatescam doubled, totalling 23,832 posts, The Verge reported. Another analysis done by the Center for Countering Digital Hate for The Times found that this was a 17-fold increase above the average monthly usage of the hashtag in 2021.

Most of the false information about climate on Twitter appears to be spread by repeat offenders. One-quarter of recent extensively shared climate-sceptic content came from only 10 Twitter handles. 

Musk's move to let those who had been previously banned from the site to rejoin has also made it possible for those who promote content that defies accepted climate science to do so, believes Justine Calma from The Verge

According to The Guardian, real climate scientists and professionals are considering abandoning Twitter since the social media site does not adequately police dangerous comments. Separately, since Musk took over, the Center for Countering Digital Hate has observed an increase in hate speech on Twitter.