Disinformation Is Big Challenge as COP28 Opens in Dubai

As the world’s leaders gather this week at a major summit to discuss ways to address the effects of global warming, one of the greatest obstacles they face is disinformation.

Among the biggest sources of false or misleading information about the world’s weather, according to a report released this week: influential nations, including Russia and China, whose diplomats will be attending. Others include the companies that extract fossil fuels and the online provocateurs who make money by sharing claims that global warming is a hoax.

They spread diverse and frequently debunked falsehoods: Humans are not responsible for climate change; recent wildfires were enabled by arson rather than hotter and drier conditions; the world is cooling; oil and gas giants are leading the charge toward carbon neutrality; and warnings about the environment are an excuse for authoritarian elites to destabilize the developing world and force everyone into lockdown and onto a diet of insects and lab-grown food.

Their efforts have already significantly eroded the public pressure and political will needed to prevent a dire future for the planet, experts said.

“What has dramatically shifted is how central to public life mis- and disinformation about climate has become,” said Jennie King, an author of a new report by Climate Action Against Disinformation, an international coalition of more than 50 environmental advocacy groups.

The unfounded claims, the coalition warned in its report, have increased conspiracy theories, social divisions and harassment. The report noted an “alarming mobilization to violence” against those associated with climate change work, including Spanish meteorologists who reported on extreme spring weather and then faced ominous threats and accusations that they were “murderers.”

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