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  • MaryGrace Lerin

Twitter Releases New #ExtremeWeather Mini-Site to Boost Climate Change Messaging

As we consider the post-pandemic future, debate over climate change has resurfaced, with the IPCC warning awhile back that the effects of human-caused climate disruption are already irreversible, and that average global temperatures will increase by more than 1.5 degrees over the next two decades unless we work together to address it.


The increased implications of those shifts will create huge disruption – not immediately, as some doubters seem to indicate; you won't be thrust into ice age-like temperatures or faced with uninhabitable heat right now. However, climate change is occurring, and it is critical that we do everything we can to both convey the science behind climate change and enhance international collaboration to address it.


That's where Twitter's new #ExtremeWeather visualization initiative is aiming.

According to Twitter:


“As extreme weather unfolds, people come to Twitter before, during, and after these events to talk about what’s happening. In fact, in a sample of English-language Tweets from 2013 to 2020, mentions of “climate change” grew an average of 50% over the 7 year period measured. This conversation has proven to be powerful and influential, as environmental activists use Twitter to raise awareness about the climate crisis, organize their communities, and connect with others passionate about protecting the planet.”


As we consider the post-pandemic future, debate over climate change has resurfaced, with the IPCC warning awhile back that the effects of human-caused climate disruption are already irreversible, and that average global temperatures will increase by more than 1.5 degrees over the next two decades unless we work together to address it.


The increased implications of those shifts will create huge disruption – not immediately, as some doubters seem to indicate; you won't be thrust into ice age-like temperatures or faced with uninhabitable heat right now. However, climate change is occurring, and it is critical that we do everything we can to both convey the science behind climate change and enhance international collaboration to address it.


That's where Twitter's new #ExtremeWeather visualization initiative is aiming.

According to Twitter:


“As extreme weather unfolds, people come to Twitter before, during, and after these events to talk about what’s happening. In fact, in a sample of English-language Tweets from 2013 to 2020, mentions of “climate change” grew an average of 50% over the 7 year period measured. This conversation has proven to be powerful and influential, as environmental activists use Twitter to raise awareness about the climate crisis, organize their communities, and connect with others passionate about protecting the planet.”


Twitter's new 'Exploring #ExtremeWeather' mini-site, which focuses on this use case, offers a variety of climate case studies and statistical insights based on tweet trends.

The mini-site features a variety of interactive visualizations produced in collaboration with Brandwatch, NTT Data, and Sprout Social, as well as overviews that allow visitors to investigate twitter debate trends around major events such as the Australian bushfires, Jakarta floods, and Texas freeze.


The visualizations in this example look at both how the broader discussion on Twitter has developed, and particular aspects of interest and discussion, that could aid to both give additional context into how trends grow, and provide more scientific background on the effects of climate change.


“These #ExtremeWeather visualizations illustrate how climate change transcends all borders and highlight the importance of global collective action. We believe the developer community can play a key role in shaping how we prepare and respond to these #ExtremeWeather events by using our API in innovative ways, like building tools and dashboards that help people understand what’s happening.”


Twitter has added particular tweet insight for each trend, indicating important mentions that spurred increased debate around each event, in addition to a general overview.


This is particularly noteworthy when you consider that Twitter has been highlighted as a crucial site for climate change doubters and activists seeking to utilize these same moments to sway the narrative in their favor, with bots in particular being named as a weapon of choice.


In the aftermath of the Australian bushfires, for example, Queensland University researchers discovered networks of Twitter bots that were using organized tweet pushes to downplay the role of climate change in the crisis and instead raise alternative, yet baseless, explanations pertaining to arson and government-imposed restrictions on controlled burns.


Bot profiles were still leading political news streams in 2019, as reported by Wired, with bots accounting for up to 60% of Twitter activity around key events. While Twitter is doing more to identify and eliminate bots, as well as address their influence in this regard, it's important to note that this is another part in the company's larger campaign to illustrate how its platform can help people connect during times of crisis.


Nonetheless, this is a significant initiative – and while it is unlikely to become a widely used tool for highlighting the effects of climate change, it will assist researchers in better understanding how to use tweet trends to investigate key elements, specifically in regard to maximizing climate messaging and promoting action.


Twitter's #ExtremeWeather mini-site can be found here.

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