Falsehoods Follow Close Behind This Summer’s Natural Disasters
As natural disasters and extreme environmental conditions became more commonplace around the world this summer, scientists pointed repeatedly to a shared driver: climate change.
Conspiracy theorists pointed to anything but.
Some claimed falsely that the record-smashing heat waves blistering parts of North America, Europe and Asia were normal and that they had been sensationalized as part of a globalist hoax.
Others made up tales that cloud-seeding airplanes or a nearby dam, rather than torrential rains, had caused the unusually intense flooding in northern Italy (and in places like Vermont and Rwanda).
The devastating wildfire on Maui last month produced especially ludicrous claims. Social media that racked up millions of views blamed the blaze on a “directed energy weapon” (the evidence: years-old footage not recorded in Hawaii). And as Florida braced last month for Hurricane Idalia, some people claimed incorrectly online that such storms are not affected by fossil fuel emissions.
The unfounded claims that now regularly follow natural disasters and dangerous weather, contradicting a preponderance of scientific evidence, can often seem frivolous and fantastical. They persist, however — attracting large audiences and frustrating climate experts, who say the world has little time to evade a global warming catastrophe.
“It’s really one of the worst challenges we have to deal with,” said Eleni Myrivili, chief heat officer for the United Nations human settlements program.
After holding a similar role for the city of Athens, which was threatened by a ruinous spate of wildfires last month, Myrivili said climate misinformation was “one of the most painful things because it’s like adding insult to injury.”
Scientists and other climate change experts are being besieged by personal attacks, including claims that they are shills for a globalist cabal or other shadowy forces, said Jennie King, head of climate research and policy at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that studies online platforms. Eroding trust in experts traps everyone in an “antechamber of discussion,” bickering about credibility rather than taking action.
“The danger is not that people hold unpalatable views in and of themselves,” she said. “It’s more our inability to have a good-faith conversation about these absolutely critical issues in the years ahead.”
文／Tiffany Hsu 譯／高詣軒