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Climate Lies

More than half of YouTube videos on climate change include incorrect data H Global warming experts call for commitment to disseminate rigorous content


Imagine you want to look for information about what climate change is and how it is affecting our planet. Enter Youtube, one of the most widely used search engines in the world, and start your own research. A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Communication argues that most of the content on the issue found on this video platform includes false information that directly clashes with scientific consensus. Climate change deniers would have taken over the top positions in the search results and could also be misrepresenting some information.


“It is alarming to discover that most of the videos on the platform propagate conspiracy theories about climate science and technology,” says Joachim Allgaier, principal investigator of the Aachen University-affiliated study. Along the same lines, experts remember that Youtube, with almost 2,000 million registered users, is currently positioned as one of the main tools for learning about science, health and technology. That is why it is particularly problematic that the platform proliferates false information about, for example, chemtrails; the steam trails of airplanes that, according to conspiracy sectors, would spread substances to modify the climate, control human populations or for a supposed chemical war. The experts responsible for this research call for a greater commitment from both the managers of social networks and the scientific community to promote the dissemination of content. “We need scientists to form alliances with science communicators, politicians and other popular culture figures in order to reach the widest possible audience,” argues Allgaier.

Battle for content

The battle to position content on social networks also becomes a struggle to position a particular story. According to Xuksa Kramcsak-Muñoz, a researcher specialised in analysing the discourse of environmentalists on climate change, in the context of social networks all interest groups – governments, institutions, companies, oenegés or activists, among others – try to position their content. The difference between these visions does not have to do with false information but with the way of understanding the causes, consequences and gravity of the situation. “The problem with this divergence of views is that, in the end, the citizen encounters an incongruent story. And the more doubts there are about the issue, the more difficult it is to understand the magnitude of the problem,” Kramcsak reflects. The researcher explains that mainstream denialism, which denies the existence of climate change, is on the decline. Now they are replacing more sceptical positions that question the way to deal with this problem. These include ideological negationism, which denies that the climate crisis has anything to do with the excesses of the capitalist system. “Nobody denies that each one of us has a responsibility, but we cannot forget that the main actors that must be committed are institutions, governments and companies,” he says.


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