Saturday, November 27, 2021

Putting Numbers to the Disinformation

Rebecca Watson, the skepchick, is calling attention to a new study published by Nature, that analyzed 22 years of disinformation about climate change, including its financing. 

Her write-up is here. Her Twitter summary gives the highlights:

A new study found that conservative think tanks and blogs have been running a coordinated disinformation campaign to lie to the general public about climate change to benefit the fossil fuel industry.

Researchers built an AI that analyzed ~250,000 climate change documents released by right-wing groups over the past 20 years, finding 5 major lies:
  1. It's not happening
  2. It's not us
  3. It's not bad
  4. Solutions won't work
  5. We can't trust scientists
They plotted the incidence of those lies over time, finding that the first 3 got less popular as the science got more undeniable. The popularity of #4 (policies don't work) peaked every time a climate change bill was introduced in Congress.

Finally, they compared the rate of the lies with conservative think tank donors. They found that the more money an organization took from the fossil fuel industry, the more likely they were to spread the lie that scientists are unreliable.

The Drilled podcast has documented many other aspects of disinformation from the fossil fuel industry. This new study brings the quantitative side of things, and matches it up with moments of clear policy failures.

1 comment:

Martin Cooke said...

Very interesting (many thanks for sharing this with us :-)