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YouTube’s Battle Against Climate Change Misinformation Intensifies

TL;DR

  • New Denial on YouTube undermines climate solutions.
  • Young viewers susceptible to climate misinformation.
  • Tech companies must address climate denial content.

Amid concerns about misinformation on social media platforms, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) recently released a report highlighting the rise of climate-based misinformation, particularly on YouTube

The report reveals a disturbing trend in the spread of climate change denial content, referred to as “New Denial,” which is having a significant impact, especially on young audiences.

The rise of new denial on YouTube

According to the CCDH’s report titled “The New Climate Denial,” the past five years have seen a surge in a subtler form of climate change denial, known as “New Denial.” Unlike traditional climate denial, New Denial does not directly dispute the existence of human-caused climate change. 

Instead, it focuses on undermining confidence in solutions and attacking the motivations of scientists and politicians.

Shockingly, the report indicates that approximately 70 percent of all climate change denial claims on YouTube now fall under the category of New Denial, marking a substantial increase from just six years ago when it accounted for only 35 percent. 

This shift in strategy aims to erode public support for climate action, particularly among younger viewers.

Imran Ahmed, the CEO and founder of the CCDH, explained, “Scientists have won the battle to inform the public about climate change and its causes, which is why those opposed to climate action have cynically switched focus to undermining confidence in solutions and in science itself.”

Monetizing misinformation

What is even more concerning is that these New Denial videos on YouTube have turned into a lucrative business. Predictive models estimate that channels promoting climate denial content generate a staggering $13.4 million in annual ad revenue. 

This financial incentive fuels the spread of misinformation, making it a profitable venture for content creators.

A poll conducted by the CCDH and a partner polling agency, Survation, revealed that over 30 percent of 13 to 17-year-olds believe that the impacts of global warming are relatively harmless and that climate policies do more harm than good. 

The appeal of New Denial content to young people is alarming, as it threatens to shape their beliefs and attitudes toward climate change.

Social media’s role in spreading new denial

Social media and tech companies have been slow to address the problem of climate misinformation effectively. Despite the rise of New Denial content, there has been a lack of concrete action from these platforms. This puts the responsibility on individuals to discern and counteract the spread of misinformation.

To combat New Denial content effectively, individuals need to be able to recognize it. The CCDH and researchers have utilized an AI-powered machine learning model known as CARDS to categorize climate change denial content. 

CARDS analyzes online text and was trained on thousands of hours of video transcripts from YouTube channels dating back to 2018.

Evolution of climate change denial

The original CARDS study identified five main categories of climate denial content. However, the CCDH now categorizes the last two as “New Denial” content, which focuses on attacking solutions and questioning the motivations of scientists. 

This shift in denial strategies has been observed over the years, with attacks on scientists and policies persisting since the early days of climate denial.

Social media’s role in proliferating new denial content

YouTube, as a video-centric platform, is particularly conducive to the spread of New Denial content. It also happens to be the most popular platform among 13 to 17-year-olds, further exposing them to climate misinformation. 

Social Blade data indicates that the 96 YouTube channels studied in the report received a staggering 3.4 billion views on their content between December 2022 and December 2023.

While some social media platforms have taken steps to combat climate misinformation, they continue to face challenges in enforcing their policies effectively. TikTok, for instance, has struggled to enforce its policies, and X has been criticized for not doing enough to stop the spread of climate change denial.

Responding to climate misinformation

In an era where climate misinformation runs rampant on social media platforms, the responsibility to combat this issue has largely fallen on individuals. With tech leaders showing inadequate responses, it becomes crucial for individuals to equip themselves with strategies to identify and respond effectively to climate misinformation.

One of the most direct approaches to tackling climate misinformation is through a fact-based approach. Utilizing reputable sources like the IPCC climate assessments, science-backed blogs, and official websites such as NOAA and NASA allows individuals to counter false claims with accurate and well-supported information. By presenting concrete facts and evidence, individuals can counteract the spread of misinformation and promote a more accurate understanding of climate change.

Understanding the rhetorical techniques employed by climate denial actors is equally vital. Recognizing logical fallacies, fake experts, conspiracy theories, cherry-picked data, and the setting of impossible expectations are key to identifying and avoiding misinformation. By dissecting these techniques, individuals can critically evaluate the credibility of climate-related claims and make informed decisions about the information they encounter.

Education plays a pivotal role in addressing climate misinformation. Educating individuals about the tactics used in spreading misinformation helps them develop critical thinking skills. Online resources and educational games, like Cranky Uncle, can be valuable tools in honing these skills. By empowering individuals to think critically and question the information they encounter, we can build a more resilient defense against climate misinformation.

Media literacy initiatives, such as those offered by organizations like the News Literacy Project, provide digital tools that teach people how to fact-check sources and identify misinformation. These resources enable individuals to verify information independently, fostering a sense of responsibility for the accuracy of the content they consume and share. Media literacy equips individuals with the skills needed to navigate the digital landscape effectively and discern credible sources from misinformation.

It is essential to seek information from reliable sources within the climate science community. Climate scientists like Katharine Hayhoe provide valuable resources and videos that address common questions and misconceptions about climate change. Relying on experts and organizations with a strong track record of scientific rigor ensures that individuals have access to accurate and up-to-date information.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Emman Omwanda

Emmanuel Omwanda is a blockchain reporter who dives deep into industry news, on-chain analysis, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and more. His expertise lies in cryptocurrency markets, spanning both fundamental and technical analysis.

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