Imagine if you could walk from your house to anywhere you needed to go in less than 15 minutes: the pharmacy, the bakery, the gym, and then back to the bakery. In a certain, conspiracy-addled corner of the internet, this urban planning concept of “15-minute cities” gets a shady, sinister gloss. Conspiracy theorists evoke COVID restrictions and tout efforts to create walkable cities as steps toward “climate lockdowns.” They warn of a plot by the World Economic Forum to restrict people’s movements, trapping and surveilling them in their neighborhoods.
“They want to take away your cars,” claims Clayton Morris, a former Fox News host, in a YouTube video that’s been viewed 1.7 million times.
YouTube is riddled with false claims like these, so it’s the place to document the evolution of arguments against taking action on climate change. A new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit based in London and Washington, D.C., working to stop the spread of disinformation, analyzed 12,000 videos from channels that promoted lies about climate change on YouTube over the last six years. Over that time, the reality of climate change long predicted by scientists has become increasingly difficult to dismiss. The report, released on Tuesday, found a dramatic shift from “old denial” arguments — that global warming isn’t real and isn’t caused by humans — to new arguments bent on undermining trust in climate solutions.
“The success is that the science has won this debate on anthropogenic climate change,” said Imran Ahmed, the nonprofit’s founder and CEO. “The opponents of action have shifted their attention.”
The report suggests that, rather than doing a victory lap, climate advocates may want to focus on defending climate policies and renewable energy as necessary and effective. As the world was besieged by intense heat, expansive wildfires, and catastrophic floods in recent years, YouTubers promoting disinformation increasingly embraced “new denial” narratives, such as that solar panels will destroy the economy and the environment, or that the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a “fraud.” [Continue reading…]