ISD’s Head of Climate Research and Policy, Jennie King, was a featured panellist at a webinar hosted by the EU Disinfo Lab in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Foundation this Monday discussing how climate debate has been broadly co-opted into the bigger universe of conspiratorial thinking.
Jennie spoke about how the topic of climate change has followed the same trends as other key policy issues including public health, gender identity and racial justice. “A lot of key policy issues […] have been centralized under unifying themes that relate to mistrust of institutions, and people’s fears coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic that their individual liberties and freedoms are going to be infringed upon by ‘elite’ groups, whether they are governments, international institutions or globalist elites.”
She went on to explain the way climate denial has changed since the 1970s, and how it became vulnerable to this kind of weaponisation. “What has changed is the way climate has become a point of entry for this larger culture war-style conversations. So rather than having a conversation about the substance of environmental issues, we are now in a very different space, where climate is being seen as symbol or representation of major fractures within society […].”
Drawing on ISD research, Jennie explained that climate denialism narratives have shifted from denying science as a whole to denying the credibility of scientists, experts and institutions. “That aligns perfectly with this broader trend of mistrusting institutions, the breakdown of public life, and the fact that people no longer have faith in the traditional gatekeepers and institutions that have defined the way that we deal with problems.”
Finally, she used the examples of the concept ‘climate lockdown’ and the urban plan behind ’15-minute cities’ to explain how climate debate and climate action are being framed as a form of so-called ‘green tyranny’ and how they are, in some cases, inspiring offline protests and mobilisation against elected officials and local authorities.
“What concerns me, even more, is the backsliding of our potential as societies to have conversations about important issues because everything is framed in this conspiratorial mindset and what that means for the possibility of talking about anything big or small, national or multilateral, when it comes to the issue of climate,” she said.
Other panellists included Zora Siebert, Alexandra Geese and Adam Barnett.
The recording is available at EU Disinfo Lab website.