Perhaps you don’t believe that climate change is a problem that we need to worry about?
You wouldn’t be alone. Many people share that view.
Some believe that the whole thing is just a hoax and that the planet is not warming at all. Others acknowledge that the Earth is indeed warming but suggest that it is just part of a natural cycle and nothing to do with human activities.
Of course, I completely respect your right to hold these views. But, that said, I’d like to issue you with a little challenge.
Here it is, in a nutshell:
It doesn’t matter if the claim is scathingly sceptical of climate change, insists that human-caused climate change is a real and imminent threat, or falls somewhere in between. It’s vital that you validate the information for yourself. Otherwise, you may inadvertently distribute false or misleading information that just muddies the water in an already extremely contentious and polarising debate.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of information (and misinformation) about climate change circulates via social media memes or short posts that link to longer reports.
Social media sites make it all too easy for us to share such posts. If the post seems to mirror our own views, we often tend to hit share without thinking about the content too much or reading the linked article.
But, especially regarding an issue as important as climate change, that tendency to blindly share is far from ideal.
So, don’t just take the word of the people who posted the information. You may greatly respect and admire these people, but that doesn’t mean that the information they post is always accurate. It could well be that they didn’t research the claims before sharing either.
Loads of Climate Change Misinformation
Unfortunately, misleading, inaccurate, and downright false information circulates online every hour of every day. I should know. I’ve been researching and writing about it for more than 15 years.
And, posts related to climate change are no exception. Some are accurate. Some are misleading or misinformed. Some are blatant lies. And, this tends to be true across the entire spectrum of belief related to climate change.
Read the Linked Article
If the posts link to an external report, read the report first. While it might not be necessary to read an entire report in detail, it’s probably wise to at least give it a solid skim-read. You’ll want to come away with a fairly clear idea of what the article is trying to say.
Why? Because the truth is that people on both sides of the argument tend to cherrypick data that fits with the ideas they are trying to promote.
It is often quite easy to lift a sentence or paragraph from a long report that seems at first glance to support a particular side of a debate. But, put back into its original context, the sentence or paragraph may be just one element in a much more nuanced discussion. Sometimes, back in context, the words may mean something quite different than you originally thought.
Jump on to Google
Whether the post links to an external report or is a standalone meme, you’ll want to check the facts via other sources.
I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is to copy and paste some key phrases from the post into a Google search. Usually, this will give you plenty of results to check out.
Then, of course, you’ll need to examine and interpret the results.
Is the information on a website that seems credible? Does the site back up its findings via verifiable data and credible references? Does the report have a publish date? If the information is years old, it may no longer be relevant or accurate even if it was once true.
Is the information on the site based on checkable facts or is it just somebody’s opinion?
Don’t rely on one source. Is there a high degree of consensus regarding the claim you are researching across multiple credible websites and sources?
Perhaps, after diligently researching, you’ll conclude that the posted information is accurate and you can hit the “share” button in good conscience. Perhaps, the information is largely factual but includes inaccuracies or outdated data that should be addressed or corrected before sharing. Or perhaps you’ll discover that the information is wildly inaccurate or just plain wrong and should not be shared at all.
With an issue as complex as climate change, it’s possible that you won’t always discover a definitive yes or no answer. But, doing a bit of research should at the very least allow you to arrive at an informed opinion on the veracity of a post.
And, this is much better than blindly passing on information without any real idea if it is accurate or not. At least you’ll know that you’ve done your best to check the accuracy of a post before spreading it further.
Keep in mind that, whatever your stance on climate change, spreading false or misleading information will NEVER help your cause. In fact, it is entirely counterproductive. Inevitably, at least some of your followers will discover something you have shared is false or inaccurate and they will be much less likely to believe anything that you post in the future.
I get it, we’re busy. All of this reading and research might seem a bit arduous. But, whether you believe it is happening or not, climate change is one of the most important issues of our time.
And, for that reason, I think it’s really important that we check the accuracy of information we are posting about climate change and global warming.