Global action required now to tackle the threat of climate misinformation and disinformation

by Ebiquity team,
Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Ebiquity is proud to be a member of Conscious Advertising Network and to support this initiative on climate misinformation. So why not join us and some of the big names below in signing it and shouting about it? 

You can sign the open letter, here.

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Climate change has reached a crisis point. COP26 is a key moment in accelerating our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. This cannot be threatened by misinformation.

The individuals, companies, agencies and civil society signatures to this letter demand swift and robust global action from COP decision makers and tech platforms, to mitigate these threats.

The problem we are trying to solve is that many of the big tech platforms currently have no Climate Misinformation policies. In August 2021, a study by Newsguard and Comscore found that $2.6 billion was being spent by big brands advertising on misinformation sites. Clearly, there is a significant risk that COP26 could be seriously undermined by dis/misinformation or even that violence may be inspired by that disinformation. This must change.

We are seeing really encouraging signs. In October 2021, Google, in partnership with the Conscious Advertising Network, announced a new monetisation policy for Google advertisers, publishers and YouTube creators that will “prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” This action sends a strong signal to all big tech companies that they must do more to stop climate misinformation.

The threat to COP26 and climate action is not abstract, we have seen misinformation derail conferences before. In 2018, a coordinated online campaign by right-wing populists, far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists pressured countries to drop support for the U.N. Global Compact on Migration. 12 countries abstained, while the United States, Israel, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary all voted against the international agreement. A year later, the same disinformation was found to have played a part in radicalising the Christchurch terrorist, with “Here’s your migration compact!” etched into the barrel of his gun.

Finally, we need a universal definition of climate misinformation to allow for international co-operation in tackling it. It is currently not recognised in the Paris Climate Agreement and was not included in the IPCC’s latest AR6 report. Without a clear definition and a recognition of the multi billion dollar industry that supports it, how can we confront it?

To the COP26 Presidency & UNFCCC:

The COP26 Presidency outlined a need for ‘a new work programme for climate empowerment, education, training and public awareness, participation and access to information’ in the COP26 Negotiated Outcome. We advocate for the ‘action against climate dis/misinformation based on the following definition’ to be included:

Climate disinformation and misinformation refers to deceptive or misleading content that:

  • Undermines the existence or impacts of climate change, the unequivocal human influence on climate change, and the need for corresponding urgent action according to the IPCC scientific consensus and in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement;
  • Misrepresents scientific data, including by omission or cherry-picking, in order to erode trust in climate science, climate-focused institutions, experts, and solutions; or
  • Falsely publicises efforts as supportive of climate goals that in fact contribute to climate warming or contravene the scientific consensus on mitigation or adaptation.

Find out more here.