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  • Jan '24
    Report finds a rise in ‘new denial’ narratives on Youtube and a third of UK teenagers agreeing that climate change is exaggerated
  • Carbon Brief analysis shows record opposition to climate action by right-leaning UK newspapers in 2023
  • Dec '23
    CAAD report: A rise in violent language used online to describe protesters in 2023
  • Nov '23
    Desmog publishes analysis of ‘anti-green’ Telegraph commentary on net zero
  • Reuters Institute report: UK audiences prefer climate coverage focused on ‘solutions’
  • Aug '23
    Valent report: Evidence of online manipulation in the debate around ULEZ expansion
  • Oct '22
    Research paper: Media portrayal of heatwaves undermines the seriousness of heat risks
  • Jul '22
    Carbon Brief: How UK newspapers changed their minds about climate change
  • Nov '21
    Media analysis: News of protests at COP26 outstripped coverage of the conference itself
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Media Insight

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    Media Insight 16th January 2024

    Report finds a rise in ‘new denial’ narratives on Youtube and a third of UK teenagers agreeing that climate change is exaggerated

    Using an AI-supported analysis of climate change content on Youtube (going back to 2018), a report from the Centre for Countering Digital Hate makes a distinction between ‘old denial’ narratives (e.g. that global temperatures aren’t increasing), and ‘new denial’ narratives (e.g. that rising global temperatures can in fact be beneficial).  Whilst ‘old denial’ narratives are now less common, ‘new denial’ narratives have increased and now constitute 70% of climate denial content on Youtube in 2023.

    Strikingly, in a nationally representative survey of young people in the UK, 31% of respondents aged 13-17 agreed that ‘Climate change and its effects are being purposefully over-exaggerated’, rising to 37% among teenagers who were heavy users of social media.

    This stands in contrast with Climate Barometer tracker data, where the claim that climate change is exaggerated was unpopular among young people aged 18-24 (a slightly older age group), perhaps indicating a pivot between earlier and later teenage years on susceptibility to this form of ‘new denial’ narrative. Alternatively, it may be a cohort effect that hasn’t been obvious because the majority of polling focuses on those aged 18 and over.

    Content which is critical of clean energy solutions, seeking to discredit them or draw attention to the financial costs of green policies, was included in the ‘new denial’ category. An analysis of newspaper editorials in 2023 by Carbon Brief found a record number of UK newspaper editorials opposing climate action (almost exclusively from right-leaning titles) utilising very similar arguments.

    • Source: Center for Countering Digital Hate | CCDH
    • Date: 16th January 2024
    Media Insight 16th January 2024

    Carbon Brief analysis shows record opposition to climate action by right-leaning UK newspapers in 2023

    An analysis by the website Carbon Brief has found a record number of editorials in UK newspapers (almost exclusively right-leaning publications) that oppose climate action. Carbon Brief writes:

    Newspapers such as the Sun and the Daily Mail published 42 editorials in 2023 arguing against climate action – nearly three times more than they have printed before in a single year. They called for delays to UK bans on the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars and boilers, as well as for more oil-and-gas production in the North Sea. In response to such demands, prime minister Rishi Sunak performed a “U-turn” in September on some of his government’s major net-zero policies.

    Climate Barometer tracker data suggests a correspondence (cause and effect is harder to establish) between the views of Conservative MPs on net zero policies, and the views expressed in these editorials. But among the public there is not such a clear relationship, with even Conservative voters ambivalent on whether delays to net zero targets are in touch, or out of touch with public sentiment:

    Opposition to climate policies is not only found in right-leaning editorials, however. An analysis by the the Centre for Countering Digital Hate found a surge in what they call ‘new denial’ narratives on Youtube in 2023. These include attempts to discredit green energy technologies, or exaggerate their cost – positions that mirror the editorial content analysed by Carbon Brief.

    Media Insight 14th December 2023

    CAAD report: A rise in violent language used online to describe protesters in 2023

    In an analysis of the language used to describe climate activists on a range of social media platforms in 2022 and 2023, Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) identified a rise in labels such as “extremists”, “lunatics” or even “terrorists”. The analysis found that allusions to violence on social media appear to be increasing, particularly in comment sections. Key findings included:

    • On X (formerly Twitter): Over 220,000 posts included ‘loaded’ language such as “climate cult” and over 90,000 posts and replies contained ‘securitised’ language such as “eco terrorist”. While the overall volume of posts remained stable over the past two years, we found that replies containing ‘securitised’, ‘dehumanising’ or ‘othering’ language have more than doubled. Specifically, references to “climate cultists” and “eco-terrorists” feature prominently in high-traction posts about protests.
    • On Facebook and Instagram: Posts containing denigrating language were shared a cumulative 1.86 million times in the timeframe. Language like “climate lunatic”, “eco extremist”, “green zealot” or “Net Zero terrorist” features in over 68,000 posts across both platforms.
    • On TikTok: TikTok’s relatively stringent moderation has led to a culture of coded violence that uses devices like dog whistles and irony to evade detection. For example, one post with over 80,000 likes shares footage of climate protesters alongside a clip of the video game Grand Theft Auto – a game well-known for allowing players to run over pedestrians. Even ostensibly ‘neutral’ content around climate activism or protests sees violent rhetoric emerge in the comments, often receiving thousands of likes.

    This kind of online discourse is troubling. And on social media platforms with large numbers of users, shares can quickly add up, so the views of an angry minority can spread quickly.

    Offline, although public attitudes towards disruptive protest groups like Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil are generally not positive, opinion data shows the UK public evenly split on whether campaigners are ‘out of touch’ with the rest of the country.

    So although public opinion isn’t altogether favourable towards protesters, the violent language documented by CAAD is likely to be more ‘out of touch’ with mainstream popular opinion, than the actions of the protesters themselves.

     

    • Author: Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD)
    • Date: 5th December 2023
    Media Insight 23rd November 2023

    Desmog publishes analysis of ‘anti-green’ Telegraph commentary on net zero

    Desmog reviewed more than 2,000 Telegraph opinion pieces and editorials published online over a six month period, ending in 16 October.

    The website reported that of 171 opinion pieces that dealt with environmental issues, 85 percent were identified as “anti-green”, meaning they were attacking climate policy, questioning climate science or ridiculing environmental groups.

    The chart below shows the number of daily anti-green op-eds reached a peak around the Uxbridge by-election in July, as the debate around clean air zones reached a crescendo.

    Although there isn’t a straightforward ’cause and effect’ relationship between media commentary and public opinion, this volume of coverage provides a loud drumbeat of anti-green commentary to Conservative MPs in particular (more than half say they read the Telegraph regularly), which is likely to be influencing the views they infer their constituents have on a range of green policies.

    We see this clearly in the ‘perception gap‘ MPs have on onshore wind, but increasingly on clean air zones and other green policies too, where opposition among the public is significantly overestimated.

    • Source: DeSmog
    • Authors: Joey Grostern, Michaela Herrmann and Phoebe Cooke
    • Date: 23rd November 2023
    Media Insight 15th November 2023

    Reuters Institute report: UK audiences prefer climate coverage focused on ‘solutions’

    The Reuters Institute for Journalism, at the University of Oxford, has released a report (following a similar analysis in 2022) analysing how people in eight countries – Brazil, France, Germany, India, Japan, Pakistan, the UK, and the USA – access news and information about climate change in 2023.

    UK audiences (in line with those in other countries) rate ‘solutions focused’ climate news as the type of news they are most interested in, supporting the idea that there’s a need to balance the (necessary) focus on the risks and threat of climate change with reporting that signposts or highlights solutions to problems, as well as the problems themselves.

    The Local Storytelling Exchange, grounded in solutions-focused regional reporting from around the UK, exists to address this need, showing ‘this is what the transition looks like’ through relatable stories that aim to build a sense of agency (which climate stories which only focus on risks and threats, can undermine).

    • Source: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
    • Date: 14th November 2023
    Media Insight 17th August 2023

    Valent report: Evidence of online manipulation in the debate around ULEZ expansion

    In an investigation by Valent, analysing 13,000 tweets and 8000 retweets from 8,583 Twitter accounts (now ‘X’) evidence was found of online manipulation of the debate around the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) ahead of the Uxbridge by-election in July 2023. The investigation revealed hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent on undermining London’s key clean-air policy – suggesting a coordinated and ultimate successful (in terms of the result of the Uxbridge by-election) attempt to create a backlash against ULEZ.

    Media Insight 18th October 2022

    Research paper: Media portrayal of heatwaves undermines the seriousness of heat risks

    According to research on the media coverage of European heatwaves in 2019, the images appearing in news media about heatwaves and extreme heat generally depict people having “fun in the sun”, across the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. People were depicted having fun in or near water, and enjoying the weather. When images did show the dangers of heat extremes, people were generally absent.

    The authors highlight this is a problematic way of showing heatwaves, because it removes the human element of extreme heat risk, and marginalises the experiences of those who are particularly vulnerable.

    • Authors: Saffron ONeill, Sylvia Hayes, Nadine Strauβ, Marie-Noëlle Doutreix, Katharine Steentjes, Joshua Ettinger, Ned Westwood, James Painter
    • Date: 18th October 2022
    Media Insight 6th July 2022

    Carbon Brief: How UK newspapers changed their minds about climate change

    Carbon Brief has released a report reviewing a decade’s worth of climate change editorials – and reports that:

    Between 2011-2016 editorial articles in publications such as the Sun, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail generally opposed action to tackle climate change, citing “unreliable” science and “expensive” environmental policies.

    But in recent years – a period that has seen the Conservative government commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 and host the COP26 climate summit – right-leaning publications have more readily embraced some efforts to cut emissions.

    As a result, these newspapers are now far more likely to support climate action in their editorial pages than oppose it.

    Media Insight 15th November 2021

    Media analysis: News of protests at COP26 outstripped coverage of the conference itself

    In analysis by Kantar, coverage of protests at COP26 was found to have outstripped coverage of the conference itself (in traditional media).

    On social media, Geta Thunberg was one of the biggest presences on Twitter, driving engagement with traditional coverage of COP26 protests.

    What the public ‘sees’ at climate conferences can shape wider climate beliefs – and although there was small but significant increase in public optimism during the course of COP26, the dominance of protests in traditional and social media is likely to have conveyed an overall impression of the conference as a ‘problem’ (to be protested against) rather than part of the solution.

    • Date: 15th November 2021

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