In recent years, climate misinformation has subtly transitioned from outright climate change denial to insidiously undermining trust in scientists and institutions. Jennie King, head of climate research and policy at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), explains this shift in an interview with Carbon Brief.
Rather than challenging the scientific evidence of climate change, modern disinformation campaigns now cast doubt on those driving the science. They tap into a broader erosion of trust in institutions, making them tougher to combat as the argument shifts away from evidence and onto individuals.
This struggle is amplified by the dynamics of social media platforms. These companies, seeking to maximise user engagement, inadvertently prioritise incendiary and provocative content. Consequently, sensational misinformation often eclipses factual information, enhancing the spread of climate denialism and distrust.
During COP26 and COP27, King's ISD team employed big data to monitor online discourse. They found an absence of substantial discussion about the negotiations. The online conversation instead focused on cultural clashes, discredit of elites, and a weaponization of the climate topic against the so-called "woke agenda".
Looking towards COP28, King's team anticipates a new layer of misinformation: sophisticated disinformation campaigns from petrochemical states, including host country UAE. This misinformation will likely employ subtler forms of greenwashing, framing certain companies or nations as climate change leaders, deflecting focus from urgent issues like fossil fuel phase-out.
With climate misinformation an evolving threat, it's crucial to adapt our understanding and strategies, ensuring that science prevails in the face of growing climate urgency.