Fake news on climate change can be defeated - but not if we’re complacent

| 7th September 2018
Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA).
Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA).
MAT HOPE, Editor of DeSmog UK, argues that fake news on climate change can be defeated, but only if those checking it are properly resourced.

It’s only with this relentless, well-resourced, pursuit of transparency in the face of denial that fake news on climate change can be defeated, once and for all.

I’m regularly told - on social media and in real life - that climate skepticism has failed. ‘Hardly anyone actually denies the climate is changing, or argues that humans aren’t causing it’, people tell me.

Indeed, after one of Europe’s longest and most intense heatwaves for decades, more people than ever seem to be joining the dots between the way we live - burning all those lovely fossil fuels - and climatic anomalies.

But as is so often the case - it’s not how many people believe something, but who, which matters. On climate change, the general public is considerably ahead of some influential policymakers.

Sufficiently resourced

Right now, the president of the United States is a man that famously called climate change a “hoax”, and pulled the world’s second largest emitter out of the world’s only functioning climate treaty.

It’s not just the US. In Poland, the country set to host the next major international climate talks, the environment ministry doesn’t appear at all convinced that climate change is caused by humans. And in the UK, climate science deniers continue walk the corridors of the House of Lords, and enable meetings between government and foreign fossil fuel and agriculture lobbyists.

Meanwhile, the UK’s mainstream press continues to publish swathes of nonsense on climate change - whether via a column in The Times by coal baron and hereditary peer Matt Ridley, a diatribe ghost-written by a blogger for Christopher Booker in the Telegraph, or yet another piece of IPSO-corrected fake news from David Rose in the Mail on Sunday.

So yes, in one sense, the scientists are winning - most of the public believe climate change is real and caused by humans. But those running newspapers, FTSE 100 companies, and some major economies are yet to be convinced.

And that’s why we can’t be complacent. Fake news on climate change will be defeated, but only if those checking it are sufficiently resourced.

That’s why the independent media outlet I edit, DeSmog UK, this week launched a crowdfunding campaign. We’re aiming to raise £20,000 by the end of October to allow us to continue calling out climate science denial, and provide the full picture on the shadowy networks pushing environmental deregulation.

What will that money get you?

Well, what do you do if you see one of your friends (or even worse your MP, or boss) sharing a report penned by a legitimate sounding organisation like the Global Warming Policy Foundation suggesting climate change really isn’t that bad?

Who wants to spend hours trying to factcheck each line themselves?

But you could use DeSmog UK’s database to alert them that they’re quoting a famed purveyor of climate science denial.

Then you could use one of DeSmog UK’s network maps to show them exactly where the organisation fits into a complex web of lobbyists pushing for deregulation that harms the environment.

That’s the fake news checked, with expert journalists doing the legwork (and you getting to look clever in the process).

Pursuit of transparency

DeSmog UK’s Disinformation Database contains almost 100 profiles of organisations and individuals that push climate science denial. The profiles allow anyone to combat fake news on climate change quickly and effectively.

But creating and keeping these profiles and maps up to date takes a lot of time and money - about £250 a pop.

Because DeSmog UK doesn’t have corporate sponsorship or make any money from advertising, we have to rely on the generosity of people who care to allow us to pay skilled journalists and make sure our work meets the highest editorial standards.

If we raise the full £20,000 we can double the size of our database. That’s twice the fact-checking fun (and you can even claim some swag in the process).

Our Database and regular reporting on the UK’s influential climate science denial networks remove any excuse anyone - media, politicians, friends and family - have to peddle inaccuracies on climate change.

It’s only with this relentless, well-resourced, pursuit of transparency in the face of denial that fake news on climate change can be defeated, once and for all.

This Author

Mat Hope is Editor of DeSmog UK. You can donate to DeSmog UK’s crowdfunding drive through Indiegogo.

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