Returning to the force of climate change conspiracy theories in 2022, Elon Musk pointed the finger

According to researchers, in 2022 misinformation about climate change has circulated on the Internet, which points in particular to the impact of the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter, which resulted in the recovery of many blocked accounts.

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“What really surprised us this year is the resurgence of language reminiscent of the 1980s: phrases like “climate hype” and “climate scam” that deny the phenomenon of climate change,” said Jennie King, who works at the Institute strategic research. Dialogue (ISD), London think tank.

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Among the most popular false claims that CO2 plays no role in climate change, or that global warming is not caused by human activity, was detailed by Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of associations, in a report.

Splash of false information on Twitter after Elon Musk’s takeover

An analysis of Twitter posts for AFP by two scientists at the City University of London counted 1.1 million tweets or retweets using climate-skeptic terms in 2022.

That’s nearly double what it was in 2021, according to researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baroncelli, who noted climate change misinformation peaked in December, a month after the COP27 summit and Twitter takeover by billionaire Elon Musk.

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The American group Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) pointed the finger at Elon Musk, who restored many blocked Twitter accounts and opened the possibility of paying for a certified account.

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“Elon Musk’s decision to open up his platform to hate and disinformation caused an explosion of climate disinformation on the platform,” said Callum Hood, head of research at CCHR.

A quarter of climate skeptical tweets come from 10 accounts.

However, in August 2022, the American billionaire himself warned of the dangers of global warming, which he called “a serious risk.”

Use of the hashtag #ClimateScam (“climate scam”) has skyrocketed on Twitter since July 2022, according to an analysis by CAAD and CCDH. For weeks, it was even the most popular search term on the site for Internet users typing the word “climate.”

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A quarter of all climate-skeptical tweets come from just 10 accounts, including Canada’s right-wing populist party leader Maxime Bernier and Paul Joseph Watson, editor of the conspiracy theory site InfoWars.

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TikTok and Youtube are also concerned

Other social networks will also suffer. Videos using hashtags linked to climate change denial have seen an increase of 4.9 million views on TikTok, according to Advance Democracy (ADI).

Video searches often turned up advertisements for climate skeptic products. Elena Hernandez, a spokesperson for YouTube, told AFP that the ad was later removed. When questioned by AFP, TikTok and Twitter declined to speak.

“Conspiracy is a very effective ideological program”

In contrast, on Facebook, ADI found that the number of such posts has decreased compared to 2021. In its report, CAAD points out that climate-skeptic content is regularly associated with other false information, about election fraud, vaccinations, the Covid pandemic, migration…

“We are definitely seeing the spread of conspiracy theories. Climate is a new divisive topic in the debate about ideas,” emphasizes Jenny King from ISD.

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Call for a reduction in the audience of climate skeptics

The vast majority of the world’s scientists agree that humanity is warming the planet by burning fossil fuels.

“Undoubtedly, human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land,” says the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 report calling for the maximum reduction of climate change. to avoid the worst effects of this global warming.

“We encourage platforms to think about the very real impacts of climate change,” CCDH’s Callum Hood insists. “Those who have repeatedly spread outright false information about climate should not have the audience they have now.”

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