Understanding climate misinformation

Published Jan 26, 2024


Climate misinformation, whether accidental or deliberate, distorts facts related to fossil fuel emissions and climate change.

Examples include greenwashing by businesses, diverting attention from environmental issues by showcasing superficial eco-friendly efforts such as recycling.

Contrastingly, disinformation involves intentional dissemination of false information. Climate deniers and organisations with vested interests often use this tactic to discredit climate science and impede environmental policies. Major fossil fuel companies like Shell, Exxon Mobil, and BP have faced accusations of undermining climate science for decades.

Groups such as The Empowerment Alliance in the US and the Responsible Energy Citizen Coalition in Europe employ astroturfing, masquerading as grassroots movements to support fossil fuels and oppose green policies. These tactics, often funded by undisclosed sources, cloud public understanding and hinder effective climate action.

Social media amplifies the spread of misinformation, especially through manipulated content and conspiracy theories. Climate denial tweets, marked by hashtags like #ClimateScam, surged on Twitter following Elon Musk's takeover, revealing the ease with which misinformation can gain traction.

Misinformation has infiltrated policy-making, notably during Donald Trump's presidency. His dismissal of renewable energy and climate science, terming global warming a hoax, contributed to the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, delaying climate action globally.

With greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures reaching alarming highs, the fight against climate change demands immediate action. However, misinformation erodes public trust in proven climate science, creating doubt around humanity's role in climate change and impeding support for necessary solutions.

Organisations like Climate Action Against Disinformation, governments, and advocacy groups worldwide are actively countering misinformation. In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged the role of misinformation in creating misperceptions, urging a united front against deceptive narratives.

Many media organisations are dedicating resources to climate reporting, dispelling myths, and providing accurate information. The importance of media literacy and responsible reporting becomes increasingly crucial in the fight against climate misinformation.