In early 2023, a dispute over how to alleviate traffic in the English town of Oxford became the subject of protests and conspiracy theories about ‘climate confinements’. The backlash to the so-called ‘15-minute cities‘ has now spread as far as France, Spain, the United States, Canada and Australia. This article for Rappler, originally published in January by Spanish outlet El Diario, plots the origins and impacts of misinformation in those early weeks and what this one case study can tell us about broader attacks on the climate agenda.
In the piece, ISD’s Head of Climate Research and Policy, Jennie King, explains how the US far-right think tank the Heartland Institute capitalised on the protests to support their own climate denialism narratives. “They seize the opportunity… They’re always looking for entry points into the news cycle to convey this world view and their position to the widest possible audience.”
Jennie goes on to describe the tactics organisations like the Heartland Institute and the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation use to spread climate disinformation. “Both organisations play a central role in creating a semblance of credibility for climate denialism […] They have a very well-developed media network within the UK, in particular, to present these views to a mainstream audience.”
“You don’t need to have a critical mass of MPs within the House of Commons who oppose the zero emissions agenda. All you need is a small cohort of actors who are very loquacious and skilled at getting press coverage. They will then dominate the news cycle and create the impression among the public that there is wider support for their position.”