June 14, 2023 | The Narwhal

Canada’s wildfires, the latest climate topic to be “weaponised” under identity politics and cultural discourse

The recent wildfires in Canada have swept across millions of acres of forest, forced over 100,000 people to evacuate, and brought record-breaking air pollution to Canada and the United States. Amid this climate emergency, some politicians and individuals online began to question the fire’s links to climate change, and instead claimed they were caused by arson as part of a broader climate denial narrative.

ISD’s Head of Climate Research and Policy, Jennie King, spoke to The Narwhal about climate misinformation surrounding Canada’s wildfires and how it fits within global dis- and misinformation trends.

“Climate is just the latest victim in a trend that has already claimed conversations around public health, conversations around migration, conversations around sexual and reproductive health rights, conversations around LGBTQ rights [and] conversations around racial justice,” she said. “The kind of underlying, unifying theme is one of the so-called woke agenda and the cabal of internationalists or globalists who are instigating that supposed agenda […] That can then be applied to any topic.”

When asked about how social media companies contribute to the spread of this rhetoric, Jennie referred to the research conducted by ISD as part of the Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) coalition. She pointed out that the group has observed a concerning spike of the hashtag #ClimateScam that “soared back up the top search results” on Twitter last week and was “obviously linked to the stories around the wildfires.”

As the Canadian government works to introduce policy around online harms later in the year, Jennie emphasised that it can’t come soon enough. “Canada is probably a little late to the party in recognising the threat of climate, mis- and disinformation, both at a low, local policymaking level, but also, the broader trend of climate being weaponised within kind of identity politics, and dynamics of, of cultural discourse,” she said.