The focus on combating climate change appears to have taken a back seat amid the continuous disruption of COVID-19, despite experts warning that the threat of climate disruption has not abated, and has in fact increased over the previous year and a half, highlighting the need for quick and major action.
This week, Facebook stepped up to the plate, announcing a slew of new features targeted at raising awareness about the effects of climate change, as well as supporting a new initiative to combat climate misinformation across its platforms.
To begin, Facebook has announced the extension of its Climate Science Information Center, which it initially introduced in select countries last September as a way to provide individuals with reliable, timely climate information.
The hub is currently available in 16 countries and is accessed on a daily basis by more than 100,000 individuals. Facebook is now attempting to make it a more interesting and informative feature.
According to Facebook:
“We’re renaming the hub to the Climate Science Center and are adding new modules like a quiz feature, in collaboration with the IPCC, to test people’s knowledge about climate change, as well as a feature that provides people with information about climate-related crises, starting with wildfires.”
The additional features should make it a more engaging experience and allow for greater conversation and information exchange about the effects of climate change.
The changes will also make it simpler to share a lot of the material in the Center, which may encourage more people to spread the news through their Facebook networks, furthering the conversation on such issues.
In addition, Facebook is launching a new video series on Facebook and Instagram to spotlight young climate advocates.
“Starting during Climate Week, September 20-26, we will highlight creators and advocates who raise awareness of climate change on our apps. We’ll also be launching a special food sustainability video with Sydel Curry-Lee on Facebook Watch, featuring a number of climate creators on @Instagram, and highlighting several environmental advocates in an effort to inspire and inform others on Facebook.”
Using the popularity of platform influencers to stimulate greater debate about climate change and changing views via insight might be another method to do so.
The video series 'Say It With Science' by the UN Foundation and the IPCC, which brings together scientists and youth advocates to share the newest insights into climate science, will continue to be supported by Facebook.
Finally, Facebook has announced that it would contribute $1 million in a new grant program to help groups working to tackle climate misinformation, in collaboration with the International Fact Checking Network.
“Through our $1 million investment in this new grant program, we’ll invest in proposals that build alliances between fact-checkers, climate experts and other organizations to support projects that focus on combating climate misinformation. In consultation with climate communication experts from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, University of Cambridge and Monash University, we’re also adding new facts to the Facts About Climate Change section of the Climate Science Center.”
This is especially significant in the case of Facebook, since despite a number of recent attempts to spread correct information and combat misinformation in postings, the platform's size still sees it feeding movements and conspiracy theories that aim to minimize climate change consequences, or even deny that anything is occurring at all.
According to reports, Facebook has willingly engaged in such situations on occasion.
As per a report published in July, Facebook removed its fact-checking marks on some climate-related postings after being urged to do so by a Republican congressman in the United States. A month prior, it was discovered that Facebook was allowing numerous climate denial messages to stay on its platforms by labeling them with words like 'opinion,' rendering them ineligible for fact checks.
Several climate scientists have criticized Facebook's lack of activity on this issue, despite the fact that data reveals that counter-science ideas frequently receive millions of views on the network, allowing them to reach a far larger audience.
Given this, it's critical that Facebook take action, but it still has a long way to go in terms of taking a real stand against climate misinformation and addressing its current role in its propagation.
The greatest interconnected network of people in history, probably the largest of any single company, can have a huge effect in this regard, and if Facebook takes a firmer stand, it may play a key part in lowering anti-climate change discourse and driving more action on this front.
You can find out more about Facebook's new Climate Science Center here.