Climate misinformation in a climate of misinformation
We are in the midst of a transformation of the digital news ecosystem. The expansion of online social networks, the influence of recommender systems, increased automation, and new generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools are rapidly changing the speed and the way misinformation about climate change and sustainability issues moves around the world.
Policymakers, researchers and the public need to combine forces to address the dangerous combination of opaque social media algorithms, polarizing social bots, and a new generation of AI-generated content.
This is the main message of this new synthesis, presented in connection to the Nobel Prize Summit 2023, "Truth, Trust and Hope".
When OpenAI released their version of the artificial intelligence ChatGPT to the public in November 2022, the playing ground for false news and misinformation online changed completely. Suddenly, anyone could, with relatively little effort, produce seemingly human-written text and highly realistic images – regardless of their truthfulness.
Misinformation and disinformation campaigns are not new, and topics such as climate change have been in the line of fire more than once. But over time, the digital aspects of these phenomena have become increasingly important for those interested in understanding and tackling the harmful effects of mis- and disinformation.
Information and communications technologies have made the world increasingly connected, allowing information to move almost effortlessly around the world in the blink of an eye. What we see on our screens everyday is increasingly determined by recommender systems, systems designed to maximize engagement, at times favouring whatever creates engagement over truth. Sometimes, this information movement is affected by social bots. Often, the diffusion of information is shaped by how people engage with it by sharing, commenting, remaking and moving it across digital media platforms and between social and conventional media. This, in combination with the capacities of generative AI to create synthetic content, may very well result in a perfect storm of misinformation. The time to act on these risks is now.
The following synthesis report explores the increasing influence of digital media, AI and algorithmic systems on the creation, diffusion and amplification of misinformation about climate and environmental sustainability issues. We combine insights from various research strands ranging from computational social sciences, to the sustainability sciences and neurosciences, to explore what we know about how such information is amplified, and to what extent recent advances in AI pose new challenges for our ability to act collectively on our planetary crisis.
This synthesis report has been put together in connection with the Nobel Prize Summit 2023, “Truth, Trust and Hope”, Washington D.C., 24-26 of May 2023.
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News & events
Research news | 2023-10-03
Combining modeling and empirical research can give better sustainability insights
Mixing empirical methods and modeling can provide better insights into cause-effect relationships in sustainability, and improve governance
Stockholm seminars | 2023-10-11
How relationships contribute to and can help solve grand sustainability challenges
Michele Barnes, James Cook University, uncovers how relationships can mediate the drivers and outcomes of sustainability challenges
General news | 2023-09-19
New Google.org grant funds Centre research on AI-powered climate risk tool
Google.org has awarded five million US dollars to a group of scientists, including Centre researchers, to develop and scale ClimateIQ , an artificial intelligence-powered climate risk evaluation tool for cities
General news | 2023-09-19
Researchers and chefs team up for a sustainable lunch week
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Research news | 2023-09-14
The SDGs are not on track — new report outlines what needs to happen
Humanity is set to miss the Sustainable Development Goals. But decisive and timely policy actions can kickstart extraordinary turnarounds and a giant leap toward achieving the SDGs
Research news | 2023-09-13
All planetary boundaries mapped out for the first time, six of nine crossed
For the first time, an international team of scientists is able to provide a detailed outline of planetary resilience by mapping out all nine boundary processes that define a safe operating space for humanity.