Image: Jakob Owens / Unsplash

The new climate denial narrative

Disinformation in the media has reached a new height in the current social climate. In the technology-oriented world of today all one has to do is open their phone and scroll through any one of their favourite social media apps to receive a whole world of information, much of it not rooted in evidence or fact, about the current social and political climate across the globe. In this regard, the rise of unfounded information denying the effects of climate change and global warming was no different. 

As we entered the 21st century, a wave of climate change denial damagingly rejected the scientific consensus around the issue, presenting the conflicting theory that a group of conspiratorial scientists had conjured these ideas in the public mind. Within the last decade, as evidence surrounding climate change has become more concrete and difficult to refute, these advocates of climate change denial have dialled back their critique. However, with the current pre-eminence of social media feeding us whole, quick content on demand more than ever before, a “new wave” of climate denial has spread that is more nuanced and targeted than before. 

New Denial now accounts for 70% of all climate denial claims on social media

Where climate change deniers previously rejected the very idea of climate change, calling it a hoax or conspiracy from scientists, the “new wave” focuses on rebuffing and denying the efficacy of solutions to very real climate change issues. By attacking the people behind the data rather than the data itself, climate change deniers have found a new angle from which to discount the realities of the problems climate change is causing. 

Researchers at the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) have seen that this “New Denial” narrative now accounts for 70% of all climate denial claims on social media. The spread was first instigated on YouTube, with content across multiple channels claiming that alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro energy simply do not work. This strategy was coupled with accusations, removed from fact, that the scientists presenting current data were corrupt and alarmist.  

The new iteration of the climate denial narrative is gaining rather than losing traction

Scientists and researchers such as Mike Berners Lee and Michael Mann, who have been campaigning to governments, corporations and other institutions at the highest levels for decades, have been vocal about the damage this spread of misinformation has caused to their work. 

However, with the trends in YouTube replicated across other social media platforms like TikTok, it seems that this new iteration of the climate denial narrative is gaining rather than losing traction. As this “New Denial” has taken rise and become more distinguished in its attack, the old denial has seen a corresponding drop in popularity among climate deniers. The CCDH further reported that claims in which anthropogenic climate change (climate change caused by human action) in any form is non-existent have dropped 30% within five years – from 65% of all claims on YouTube in 2018, to 35% of claims in 2023.  

With no conclusive solution to the problem of this “New Denial” being obvious, advocates for climate change will have to increasingly rely on people’s discretion and open mindedness on the issue. With 2023 replacing 2016 as the warmest calendar year on record, seeing an average global temperature of 14.98 degrees Celsius, the impact of “New Denial” and the necessity to try and redress the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly more obvious. However, it is also more and more apparent that the necessary changes will not happen until everyone is on the same page about what climate change is doing to the planet.  

The theories in this “New Denial” are designed to capitalise on the rise of an age of social media, dividing opinion and challenging factual information that needs to be shared. In light of this, it is more important than ever to be discerning about both who and where information about climate change comes from. 


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