Misinformation surrounding the wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, continue to circulate across social media platforms, following the same trend observed following other natural disasters. ISD’s Head of Climate Research and Policy, Jennie King features in The New York Times speaking on the proliferation of conspiracy theories and misinformation regarding natural disasters and extreme environmental conditions taking place across the globe this summer.
Jennie comments on the different tactics actors are using nowadays to spread climate denialism. While the oil and gas industry has long waged a coordinated and technical campaign, more recently the revenue is behind the conspiracy theorists and extremists spreading climate denialism whom operate in a more decentralised way.
“Those two universes of actors have collided with each other in the online space and basically found a marriage of convenience. You have the informal and the formal, the traditional and the very digital, now occupying the same ecosystem and ramping it up to new extremes,” she said referring to the two distinct styles.
Jennie also touched on climate denialists’ focus on not only attacking scientific evidence but also the reputation of scientists and climate experts in a personal manner. This erosion of trust in experts traps everyone in an “antechamber of discussion” arguing about what is credible rather than taking action, she said. “The danger is not that people hold unpalatable views in and of themselves […] It’s more our inability to have a good-faith conversation about these absolutely critical issues in the years ahead.”
The article also references a report analysing dis- and misinformation surrounding wildfires over the past three years by Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) coalition, of which ISD is a member.