By Eleni Mann
Climate denial is commonly defined as the refusal to believe in existing scientific evidence. This suggests a willingness to challenge and deny the recognition of the facts, despite access to and knowledge of them.
For me, as a student of earth sciences, climate change is an undisputed fact. The last three years of my degree have focused on the past, present and future of the Earth, and the changes the climate is currently facing. The reasons people deny the climate crisis, or more specifically, that we are accelerating the Earth’s natural climate cycles, are completely foreign to me.
The motivations for climate denial are varied, whether personal, political or economic. Psychologists identified as the main obstacle to accepting climate change is mistrust, that is, mistrust, rejection and denial of information surrounding the climate change crisis.
Donald Trump’s presidency has begun a discourse surrounding the intrinsic links between climate change denial and a person’s politics persuasion; in general, liberals align themselves with views that accept climate change, while conservatives are more likely to take the opposite position.
It has been made clear in his presidential campaigns that Trump is skeptical of current concerns about climate change. He outwardly supported the coal industry, opposed environmental regulations, and his withdrawal from the Treaty of Paris showed how determined he was to make his vision of a United States energized with thriving coal and oil production. , a reality.
However, Trump was not denying climate change – in fact, he easily recognized it in his speech on the treaty of paris. In acknowledging the climate crisis, a shift has taken place within Trump’s conservative backing. These staunch supporters closely affiliated with Trump’s personality have moved from denial of climate change to acceptance; those who denied any knowledge of climate change before Trump, have moved away from him.
As political opinions become polarized, the need for people to associate with a singular ideological group grows. It follows that people’s opinions about climate change are more strongly influenced by their need to follow the status quo of a particular political ideology, rather than opinions formed by the knowledge and personal experience of the individual.
The polarization of political opinion has often been linked to the rise of social media. We are more likely to accept new information that reinforces our existing views, and therefore people often want to communicate with others who share their beliefs. This exposes us more and more to a more restricted set of beliefs that are more in line with our own personal principles and policies.
It’s easy to forget that not everyone has access to the information that we university students have. If you want, I could cross paths with an absurdly sounding tweet with an article from ScienceDirect, or search my lecture notes to check out that ringing Facebook post. correct not quite right. Often the opportunity to learn how Critically appraising information is reserved for those of us privileged enough to receive a college education.
With COP26 last year, the buzz around the climate change talks increased. the Facebook real watchdog found that in more than 195 Facebook groups, climate denial posts have so far received up to 1.3 million views. Climate disinformation has been viewed an estimated 25 million times in the United States in just 60 days, which has (again) come under Facebook’s scrutiny for its laxity. regulation of disinformation.
However, the average social media users reposting climate denial propaganda are only the lowest level in the network of actors who fund, produce and amplify the disinformation disseminated by those with influence.
Politically charged news outlets that circulate on social media platforms like Facebook have a monopoly on climate change denial content. Breitbart, a far-right news and commentary platform is one of 10 publishers responsible for 69% of climate denial content on Facebook, and aligns with other members of the ‘Toxic Ten’ who have ties to the fossil fuel giants.
Exxonmobil often launches rhetoric describing the alleged ‘risk’ of climate change, but never explained how they define the term. In doing so, big polluting companies are able to hide behind this ambiguity, never really recognizing the climate crisis as a reality and instead downplaying the severity.
Rising sea levels and extreme weather events are not just risks, they are facts, and this rhetoric of “risk” presented by Exxonmobil and its competitors undermines the efforts of credible climatologists fighting against very risk. real climate change.
The importance of an open discussion on climate change cannot be understated. These conversations need to happen, and social media is the perfect way to do it. However, the disinformation spread through these platforms must be fought, so that people can form their own opinions using reliable and trusted sources.
It has never been more important that social media be used wisely, encouraging healthy discussion and helping to unite the human race against climate change.
Image: Thomas Tomlinson