Calling out climate lies in the media
Stop Funding Heat wants to stop the promotion of climate misinformation by the press.
Fossil fuel companies have grown increasingly savvy in their greenwashing efforts – from partnering with Instagram influencers, to sponsoring news organisations like The New York Times. This begs questions about how much autonomy they have over the information they release.
The campaign Stop Funding Heat seeks to shed light on ‘coordinated climate lies as well as subtler forms of climate misinformation’. Formed in 2020 and run mostly by volunteers, they have exposed climate misinformation in a number of leading UK newspapers.
Stop Funding Heat also analyses social media platforms, primarily Facebook which permits climate denial to spread as it provides ‘good business’. They estimated that there are between 818,000 and 1.36 million daily views of climate misinformation on the platform, of which only 3.6% are fact-checked.
As online information spreads like wildfire, this is incredibly dangerous - especially when coupled with real-life events intended to support our dying planet, such as COP26 where fossil fuel companies sent 500 lobbyists to the event - more than any other country and outnumbering the official Indigineous constituency.
Recently, Avaaz has released a climate report, titled ‘Meta-Denial: How Facebook Fails to Keep Up with the Evolving Tactics of Today’s Climate Misinformers’, where they found that the top five climate misinformers on Facebook racked up over 61 million views during an 8-month period. As 88% of their posts did not have fact-checking labels, Facebook has become home to many of these voices, although Meta claims that there is no evidence that the platform has adverse effects of climate change.
A definition for climate misinformation
In order to dig deeper, Ours To Save spoke to Stop Funding Heat about Facebook’s role in spreading climate misinformation.
“It is clear that Facebook is one of the biggest vectors for climate misinformation - if not the biggest - in the world,” said its spokesperson.
“We are asking Facebook to publicly state its definition of climate misinformation, and produce clear, transparent policies as to how it seeks to reduce the problem. If it isn't a problem, we want to see the data behind that. Facebook is a black box, but from what we can see from the outside, it is directly contributing to this pressing issue.”
Stop Funding Heat has built a misinformation archive on its website, highlighting various headlines from national media platforms. This includes several from The Spectator. One headline - ‘Can London’s floods be explained by climate change’ - raises doubts as to whether extreme weather is caused by climate change, despite there being a scientific correlation between global warming and weather.
Another repeat offender is GB News. In one segment titled ‘Is Britain too reliant on wind power?’, Nigel Farage claimed that renewable energy only produced 2-3% of Britain’s electricity for three weeks in September. Full Fact found this claim to be false, stating that it was 10-19% each day for the first three weeks of September and has since increased.
Stop Funding Heat reiterates that “during a climate crisis, there is no justification for climate misinformation to be so prevalent online. Social platforms as well as toxic online media such as GB News, Fox News and Spiked are spreading misinformation as it’s good for their business model.
“Stop Funding Heat works with brands who do not want to be funding such activities, by helping them recognise how to remove their adverts from such media and social media platforms.”
In the past, climate denial has led to a delay in effective climate action. So, now that media personalities and politicians openly share their - often spurious - opinions on climate change, it is more important than ever to check the facts.
We must demand better regulation of content published on media platforms, and when fact-checked by government regulations, those publishing mis-information must be held accountable and false facts must be taken down and publicly rectified.
Imaan Asim is a modern languages student at QMUL. You can read her work here.
Featured image courtesy of Brian McGowan.