• Ayah Khan

"We need more thinkers... not deniers"

Climate change denial is evolving and tactics to spread misinformation are becoming more sophisticated. This means that big tech companies must find equally as sophisticated means to tackle this misinformation.

Protesters in New York City fought against climate change denial in 2017. As evidence of humans' impact on the climate grows, disinformation tactics have shifted. PACIFIC PRESS MEDIA PRODUCTION CORP./ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Climate change denial is a rejection or unwarranted inquiry that contradicts the scientific consensus on the issue. Often, those who reject, dismiss, or have unfounded doubt about the scientific consensus on global warming label themselves as "climate change sceptics."

A common tactic used by denialists is to imply that there is a scientific controversy where none exists. The common tactic used to deny climate change is to shift responsibility from humans to nature saying that climate change has been happening since before humans came to exist. If it's a natural phenomenon… what can be done but to simply ignore it?

There is a school of thought that argues that the sun and volcanoes are two of the main factors causing the rise in temperatures. The argument follows that volcanoes’ gases (sulfate aerosols to be specific) and ashes can be natural causes affecting the climate. Nevertheless, research has shown that the impact of natural events is minimal in comparison to the anthropogenic factors that have led to this climate crisis.

Other common ground has included: 1) How can one predict the future of climate when they cannot predict next week’s weather accurately? 2) There isn’t scientific consensus, since some scientists have petitioned against climate science being real (in 2019, 500 experts wrote a letter to the UN arguing that climate-change was not an emergency that needed to be dealt with. It made available arguments such as climate policy respecting scientific fact and costs required but suggested that no policy or adaptation was needed).

It is necessary to halt misinformation due to its severe consequences. A recent example of large scale was the US pulling out of the Paris Agreement in 2017.

How to counter climate denial?

Recently, more serious actions have been taken to stop misinformation. The announcement by Google and Youtube in October set out new regulations that will essentially slash all ads and monetization for content that spreads misinformation. This policy change affects publishers, advertisers, and YouTube creators, who will no longer be able to make money from content that contradicts the scientific consensus on the causes and effects of climate change. It has been announced that Google will not advertise alongside material that opposes well-established scientific knowledge on climate change. The new policy will also apply to disputes regarding the ways that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to global warming.

To put this in context: if a creator meets certain requirements, they may monetize from their YouTube channel through advertising. By limiting their ability to make money, Google and YouTube slow down misinformation spread by similar channels. This has halted advertising campaigns that promote inaccurate climate-change-related claims in response to increasing complaints from advertising and publishing partners. This new policy will be enforced by combining algorithmic detection alongside human moderation. Misinformation about climate change should be addressed by big tech companies who are receiving a lot of public pressure. One such company is Facebook (or shall we say Meta…). The company is under constant pressure to counter climate change misinformation with its advertising policy. So much so, that a $1 million grant will be used to "fact-check" climate change claims.