Climate change deniers have clearly set back human progress and delayed us in reducing emissions, obviously that’s no good. What is good is that they barely exist anymore. The science has always been done properly around climate change and people are living the chaos that climate change has caused; it’s as impossible to deny as a round Earth. Conversations are no longer hijacked by people who deny climate reality, and that’s a good thing.
How do we know this? Some researchers set out to determine how present climate change denialism was online only to find it declining. A really need potential spinoff from this research is how to look into other aspects of people denying science and how to engage them to better understand reality.
In a study out this week in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, researchers found that outright denying the science is going out of fashion. Today, only about 10 percent of arguments from conservative think tanks in North America challenge the scientific consensus around global warming or question models and data. (For the record, 99.9 percent of scientists agree that human activity is heating up the planet.) Instead, the most common arguments are that scientists and climate advocates simply can’t be trusted, and that proposed solutions won’t work.
It took Cook and his team about five years to create a machine learning model that was able to reliably detect real-life climate misinformation claims. “Misinformation is messy and doing content analysis is messy, because the real world is always a bit blurry,” Cook said. First, they developed a taxonomy to sort arguments into broad categories — say, “climate change isn’t bad” — narrower claims (“carbon dioxide is not a pollutant”) and even more specific points (“CO2 is food for plants!”). Then they fed common climate myths into the machine until it was able to recognize each one consistently out in the wild.
The ongoing global climate crisis is still denied by some people (like the Australian Prime Minister) despite all the evidence. The predictions made by climate scientists decades ago are coming true: from crop failures to massive wildfires. Why then are we ignoring their predictions about what’s going to happen next? This question is tough since it can get people thinking about things they find uncomfortable. To help us talk with people who don’t understand the threat of ignoring the climate crisis Summer Praetorius created this helpful knowledge tree. The tree helps us find what people are thinking and how they reached their conclusion.
The thing about alarms is that they turn out to be useful. The canary in the coalmine, smoke detectors, tornado sirens, cell phone alerts; we generally agree that instruments to detect and convey impending threats are a step in the right direction. In fact, we require them in most buildings. The inconvenience of an occasional false alarm is far outweighed by the benefit of not dying in your sleep by a raging fire.
So while catastrophists may get the eye-roll of hyperbole, gradualists warrant an occasional head-slap of naivete. Their apparent inability to conceive a fundamentally different world leads them into a default mode of complacency, one that ironically makes it much more likely to provoke the thing they arenâ€™t expecting. On the flip side, catastrophists are more prone to expect disaster, and might be more motivated to prevent the potential threats. So each will unwittingly prove the other one right, if they have their way of things.
The good news here isn’t in Canada, it’s in the rest of the world. Recent studies have shown that giving reality deniers airtime on the news changes the discourses around climate change for the worse. The research has led to changes in how media companies approach who they have on their shows when talking about the environment. It’s time that we all hold people accountable for denying the reality of our climate crisis.
“It’s time to stop giving these people visibility, which can be easily spun into false authority,” University of California Merced Professor Alex Petersen said in a statement. Peterson was one of three scientists who traced the digital footprints of climate deniers and scientists across 100,000 media articles for a study in Nature Communications. They discovered about half of mainstream outlets actively seek out climate change denying experts for coverage.
In the new research, Petersen and colleagues looked at 386 prominent climate deniers and 386 climate scientists. They looked at 200,000 scientific journals and 100,000 media articlesâ€”from both traditional and new formats. Their findings showed climate change deniers were 49 percent more visible to audiences than climate change scientists. Where media sources adhere to traditional editorial standards, the visibility of the two groups was on par. The only area where scientists had prominence was within scientific publications. New media, they say, “facilitates the production and mass distribution of assertive content” by climate change deniers, “which intentionally or not, crowds out the authoritative message of real” climate scientists.
Plus, if you’re interested in what you can do about the discourse around climate change:
First up on the show today, weâ€™re asking whether the â€œflight shameâ€ movement helps â€” or hurts â€” climate activism. @KHayhoe says weâ€™re more effective when weâ€™re inspired to create change, and that change needs to be systemic.
Climate change can’t be ignored anymore. Every year we see an increase in deaths directly related to climate change from flooding to heat waves. Young people are inheriting a planet that is facing mass extinction due to the damage previous generations have done to the planet and the “kids” these days aren’t going to take it. These educated youth are standing up and demanding policies to protect the environment now because those policy changes should have happened before they were even born.
Good for these people standing up and demanding that we have clean air and water for years to come.
Aina Koide, 21, Tokyo, Japan
â€œWhy donâ€™t we cooperate to protect nature from climate change? It would be the first time all people on the Earth united together.â€
What have you learned from taking part in the strikes? I realised how negative the image of strikes and protests are in Japan. But I also saw plenty of students who are eager to take action to save the Earth. Can you talk about the idea of climate justice? It means that we need to consider developing countries, future generations and non-human creatures, instead of just focusing on developed countries. Developed countries like Japan should take responsibility. Whatâ€™s the strike movement like in Japan? Is it growing? At the first action only 20 people participated, but at the second one 130 people were there. Itâ€™s still much smaller than other countries but itâ€™s growing and we now gather not only in Tokyo but also in Kyoto. Itâ€™s becoming bigger and bigger. For the second gathering we walked around Shibuya so I think the #FridaysForFuture movement has become better known. How does climate change currently affect Japan? In 2018, a heat wave swept the country from July to September, resulting in more than 80,000 people being taken to hospital and many people died. In western Japan, torrential rains killed at least 100 people. These events made me realise that climate change undoubtedly affects this country.