Mainstreaming climate scepticism: Analysing the reach of fringe websites on Twitter

By: Cécile Simmons

15 March 2023

Amid ongoing polarisation around climate, ISD has found that fringe climate denialist websites have gained a foothold in online conversation with thousands of daily mentions on Twitter by highly followed climate-denying actors, pundits and outlets.


ISD’s monitoring of climate mis- and disinformation around COP27 found that while the playbook has largely pivoted to ‘delayist’ tactics, outright denialism has far from disappeared.  Since July 2022, we have also seen increased use of the hashtag #ClimateScam on Twitter and other explicit references to climate denial, amplified by prominent accounts including those verified with a ‘blue tick’ checkmark. In light of these trends, and building on an investigation published by EU DisinfoLab in February 2023, we sought to trace the reach of 32 fringe climate-denying and climate-sceptic websites identified by EU DisinfoLab’s research. These websites originate from the US and nine European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and the United Kingdom), producing content in respective national languages. Climate-sceptic actors have increasingly mentioned them in tweets since early 2022, suggesting increased attempts to push climate-denying talking points to the general public.

In order to determine the reach of the websites, we used the analytics tool Brandwatch to capture all mentions of the websites’ domains on Twitter between 1 January 2022 and 1 March 2023 [1]. Our aim was to understand the extent to which these websites were being shared on the platform, which actors gave them the highest visibility, and under what framework/narratives were they being promoted.

ISD’s research to date has shown again and again that a small number of actors can disproportionately affect discourse on climate. In tracking the reach of these websites, we sought to map out how marginal or extremist content reaches broader audiences and may eventually make its way into the mainstream by high-traction influencers or pundits.

EU DisinfoLab’s investigation found that these websites promote a wide range of disinformative and anti-climate narratives, ranging from outright climate denial to minimising the impact of climate change and spreading widely debunked claims about renewable energies. While many of these websites brand themselves as ‘climate realists’, they promote explicitly disinformative and harmful content which aims to undermine climate action and the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Key findings

  • Mentions of these websites have increased significantly since the beginning of 2022, reaching over 10,000 mentions a day on 15 August 2022, and regularly achieving over 5,000 mentions per day since that date. Other spikes in mentions took place on 26 December 2022 and 6 February 2023. During the whole period of study, the websites received over 225k mentions on Twitter.
  • Judging by the top retweeted content, spikes seemed to be driven by attempts to generate interest in the ‘World Climate Declaration’, a climate-denying document allegedly signed by over 1,200 scientists and academics which was first shared on 27 June 2022. Fact-checking of the document has repeatedly shown that most signatories are not climate scientists and instead include personalities with explicit ties to fossil fuel companies [2].
  • Most retweeted content came from influencers identified by ISD research as ‘repeat offenders’ in spreading climate disinformation, highlighting the role of several active accounts in mainstreaming climate denial.
  • The most used hashtag identified among tweet mentions of these websites is #ClimateScam, while other top hashtags included climate-denying terminology such as #celebrateCO2. Mentions of #ClimateScam were linked to various articles from websites arguing that global temperatures are declining, a false claim which has been repeatedly debunked [3].
  • When exploring website mentions in other languages for comparative purposes, ISD found that French-language tweets referenced websites in their own language 7 out of 10 times, suggesting limited transnational crossover in mentions. However, widely retweeted French-language accounts actively shared content produced by English-speaking climate ‘influencers’, increasing visibility to an international audience.

Volume of conversation

Figure 1: Numbers of mentions of links to the 32 fringe climate websites on Twitter

Figure 1: Numbers of mentions of links to the 32 fringe climate websites on Twitter.

Understanding the spikes in mentions

Attempts to promote the ‘World Climate Declaration’ drove the initial spike in discussion on 15 August 2022, and for the next week daily mentions of the websites continued to exceed 10,000. The climate denying document was published by CLINTEL, a Netherlands-based group founded in 2019 by retired geophysics professor Guus Berkhout and journalist Marcel Crok. CLINTEL’s stated view on climate is that ”there is no climate emergency.” ISD found that top content in our dataset (ranked by retweets) promoted the document in multiple languages and received hundreds of shares.

The following spike in mentions on 26 December 2022 was driven by an article from fossil fuel lobbyist Alex Epstein (166k followers) which attacked ‘climate reparations’ at COP27 via his substack Energy Talking Points, and a tweet by controversial academic Jordan B. Peterson (3.9 million followers) mentioning the ‘World Climate Declaration’. Peterson’s tweet received over 15k shares. Both Epstein and Peterson have been profiled extensively in ISD’s prior research, including our flagship reports “Deny, Deceive, Delay” Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Figure 2: Tweet by Jordan Peterson linking to an article about the ‘World Climate Declaration’.

Figure 2: Tweet by Jordan Peterson linking to an article about the ‘World Climate Declaration’.

The final major spike in discussion identified 6 February 2023 was driven by a series of specific tweets, including:

  • Another tweet by Alex Epstein linking to one of his Substack articles, this time attacking electricity produced through renewable energies and a push for electric vehicles. While the tweet received just over 100 shares, it was retweeted by Jordan B. Peterson and proceeded to receive 90,000 views. ISD research has shown that attacks on renewable energies and electric vehicles are an integral part of the climate denial handbook.
  • A tweet by Steve Milloy (92.9k followers) arguing that climate change is a hoax and that temperatures have decreased in January in Tokyo, an explicit climate-denying talking point.
  • A tweet by French economist Philippe Herlin describing Extinction Rebellion as a ‘sect’ and linking to a piece by one of the French-language outlets, highlighting how attacks on climate activism are part of the anti-climate handbook. Recent research by ISD showed the role of mainstream media headlines in undermining climate action.

Key narratives and amplifiers

To understand the broadness of the narratives related to the mentions of these websites, ISD reviewed the top 10 most shared tweets and the most shared stories (URL links).

Most shared URLs Mentions
World Climate Declaration There is no climate emergency ( 14,178
WCD-version-06272215121.pdf ( 11,243
WCD-version-100122.pdf ( 10,222
1,200 Scientists and Professionals Declare: “There is No Climate Emergency” – The Daily Sceptic 10,187
Sea Level Is Stable Around The World… The Good News The Media Don’t Want Us To Hear ( 4,588
Klimaatverandering: omvang, oorzaken en gevolgen ( 3,483
Trend Change? Greenland Ice Mass Loss Has Been Decelerating Since 2012 ( 3,023
Verzet tegen windmolens laait op – Climategate Klimaat 2,183
Energy Talking Points | fake emergency 2,080
As Green Policies Cause Energy Prices To Explode, Deforestation In Europe Accelerates ( 1,696

Figure 3: Most widely shared URLs (from the 32 websites) on Twitter.

The three most shared links all related to CLINTEL’s ‘World Climate Declaration’, including an article from the Daily Sceptic (a website which has shared a wide range of disinformative claims about COVID-19 and climate change) promoting the document, and collectively totalled over 45k shares. This reveals the central role played by fringe outlets in promoting the denialist document. Top links also included three disinformative articles from the climate-denying website ‘No Tricks Zone’, arguing that sea levels are stable, that Greenland’s icesheet loss is reversing, and that a rise in fossil fuel prices and targets to reduce carbon emissions are causing deforestation.

Most shared tweets linking to fringe websites Number of retweets
 “Proud to be a signatory of the World Climate Declaration. There is NO climate emergency. 9,968
“There is no evidence of rising oceans – despite decades of hysteria by globalist bad actors like Al Gore, Bill Gates & the UN. Oceans rise very slightly each year by around a millimetre, due to tectonic movement & seafloor spreading. It’s a scam.  4,271
 “1,100 scientists have called for an end to the global warming charade, which pretends it has support in science. There is no climate crisis & its time the world moved on. The United Nations has been funding its bogus global warming campaign for 33 years. 4,320
“Greenland ice mass balance… 27% greater than the 1981-2010 average. What’s melting… the climate hoax. 2,951
“Groene energie is vuile energie. Door erosie (wind, hagel, zout,..) verliest een windmolen ongeveer 160 kg per jaar aan fijnstof, dat bovendien bisfenol-A bevat, een mogelijk kankerverwekkende stof. Voor NL is dit ongeveer 480 ton “giftig” fijnstof per jr. 2,208
Fun fun fun: good work green moralists: your idiot energy policies are now destroying the forests of Europe.  1,424
“Ultimate in mind control. UN convinces Google to show only IPCC climate propaganda at top of search results. This is pure politics and zero science. I have feared this since the Internet was born. Read and weep. 1,233
“”Weltklimaerklärung”, von 1.107 Wissenschaftlern und Fachleuten unterzeichnet: Es gebe keinen Klimanotstand, sagen die Autoren, angeführt vom Physik-Nobelpreisträger Giaever: Die Klimawissenschaft beruhe nicht auf solider, selbstkritischer Wissenschaft.  1,228
“Harvard Medical School Will ‘Integrate Climate Change’ Into M.D. Curriculum | Climate Depot 1,145
“”Thinking that we can minimize severe weather through using atmospheric carbon dioxide as a control knob is a fairy tale.” Judith Curry 1,041
“1 100 scientifiques ont appelé à mettre fin à la mascarade du réchauffement climatique, qui prétend avoir un soutien scientifique. Il n’y a pas de crise climatique. 885

Figure 4: Most retweeted content sharing links from one or more of the fringe websites.

Key amplifiers

An analysis of most shared tweets revealed that some actors identified as ‘super-spreaders’ of climate misinformation by ISD and CAAD linked to the fringe websites, including:

Other widely retweeted accounts included self-described ‘independent’ journalist Henning Rosenbuch (verified account, 45k followers), who tweets in German but whose profile indicates he is based in Sweden, and French-language account @Elpis_R (non-verified account, 18.5 followers), whose bio states Climate Science Research (Independent) – Climate Realist – Alarmists Ignore The Geological Climate Record”. The latter two accounts linked to CLINTEL’s ‘World Climate Declaration’, showing how one piece of disinformation managed to receive traction in multiple languages.

The latter two accounts linked to CLINTEL’s ‘World Climate Declaration’, showing how one piece of disinformation managed to gain traction in multiple languages.

Top 10 hashtags Number of mentions
#climatescam 2,155
#climatechange 1,166
#svpol 696
#klimaat 656
#celebrateCO2 635
#climateemergency 569
#climatecrisis 472
#climate 455
#feedly 423
#mustread 420

Figure 5: Top hashtags cited alongside mentions of the websites.

Spotlight on France

To explore potential transnational linkages, ISD reviewed the reach of fringe websites in French, one of the EU’s key languages.  We found that 7 out of the top 10 most shared URLs in the French-language ecosystem came from French websites, notably and The exception to this was the CLINTEL declaration, suggesting that outside of this specific example, non-English speaking actors mostly reference websites in their own language.

An examination of the top retweeted French-language content, however, showed the key role a small number of accounts play in amplifying English-language content to French audiences, as widely retweeted French-language accounts were also found to be otherwise actively engaging with English-language content. Six of the top 20 most shared tweets came from @Elpis_R, among the most active climate-denying accounts in French, while another four were by a self-described urologist, and another from self-described economist Philippe Herlin.

A manual overview of a sample of the most recent 50 tweets shared by each of the authors   showed that the first two widely share content produced by English-speaking influencers (e.g. Michael Shellenberger, Jordan B. Peterson). Between January and March, @Elpis_R has retweeted or shared a range of content featuring prominent English-language climate sceptics, including the likes of Steve Milloy, Judith Curry or Michael Shellenberger (574.8k followers). Recent investigations have highlighted the central role played by @Elpis_R in the French climate-denying online ecosystem, showing that this account’s activity as of February had more than doubled since the summer of 2022.


Our analysis found that mentions of fringe climate-denying websites have risen significantly since the beginning of 2022, suggesting increased attempts by anti-climate actors to push climate denying talking points. The transnational sharing of CLINTEL’s ‘World Climate Declaration’ and its dissemination by influencers in multiple languages shows that fringe disinformative content can gain significant traction on social media.

The websites under focus in this study and the content they produce exemplify the full range of anti-climate narratives, including outright climate denial and widely debunked narratives. Continued mentions of fringe websites and their amplification by active anti-climate accounts and contrarian pundits and influencers with substantial audiences (e.g. Jordan Peterson) can contribute to the mainstreaming of harmful climate-related narratives, influence public opinion and dissuade meaningful climate action.

[1] The websites were identified in an investigation carried out by EUDisinfoLab and covers the 19 outlets listed as well as the four websites “Global Warming Scare“, “NoTricksZone“, “Climate Fraud” and “Climate Skeptical”. Don’t stop me now: the growing disinformation threat against climate change – EU DisinfoLab


[3] Temperature graph misrepresented to deny climate change | AP News

An earlier version of the article referred to the blog No Tricks Zone as ‘no longer operative’ based on EU DisinfoLab’s investigation. The blog is still active and the reference was removed to reflect that.