Musk Pumps Climate Denial on Twitter

December 14, 2022

I’d sure like someone to explain how the man who did the brilliantly simple explanation of climate science above, could get behind the explosion of climate denial we are now seeing on the platform he owns.

Brand destruction is one thing, but planet destruction is even more gobsmacking.

Bob Henson in Texas Climate News

Katharine Hayhoe wasn’t planning to start a new list on Twitter, until last month. That’s when the Texas Tech professor and Nature Conservancy chief scientist was accused of being “little more than a priestess of a twisted religion.”

In response, Hayhoe – an eminent climate researcher and communicatorwho has more than 230,000 followers on Twitter – created a new Twitter list called Climate Cult Priestesses. It comprises tweets from Hayhoe and seven of her women colleagues.

The list’s tagline: “If that’s what they call us, we might as well own it!”

Drawing on everything from humor to outrage, Hayhoe and other climate scientists long active on Twitter are confronting a watershed moment. Since Twitter was taken over in October by the richest person on Earth, Elon Musk, at least two-thirds of the site’s staff has been fired or left voluntarily, and thousands of once-suspended accounts are being allowed back on the platform. (Donald Trump is among those invited back, though he hasn’t yet taken up the offer.)

On Dec. 9, three members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council resigned, asserting: “It is clear from research evidence that, contrary to claims from Elon Musk, the safety and wellbeing of Twitter users is on the decline.” On Dec. 12, it was reported that Twitter had dissolved the council.

The invective flung at Hayhoe exemplifies the trashing of climate scientists and climate science that appears to have ramped up since the Musk takeover, as outlined in a Guardian article on Dec. 2: “#ClimateScam: denialism claims flooding Twitter have scientists worried.”

The headline refers to the fact that at the time of the article’s publication, #ClimateScam appeared at the top of the search list when “climate” was typed into Twitter’s search engine, beating out #ClimateEmergency and #ClimateAction.

A Dec. 8 analysis by the watchdog group Media Matters found that several prominent purveyors of climate-science dismissal and/or misinformation saw jumps in new followers since the Musk takeover. Some garnered up to 18 times their monthly average in new followers.

Others rooted in mainstream climate science noted drops in engagement for their own Twitter posts. “My 12-month average is 135 mentions per day,” reported Hayhoe on Nov. 23. “This number was maintained until a week ago, when it dropped like a rock (despite being the final days of #COP27 [this year’s United Nations climate summit]).”

From Nov. 20 to 23, Hayhoe saw less than 50 mentions a day.

“Twitter is a shadow of its former self when it comes to climate change,” Kim Cobb, a climate scientist who directs the Institute at Brown [University] for Environment and Society, told the Guardian. “As someone who followed lots of women scientists, and scientists of color, I’m noticing the absence of these treasured voices.…Maybe they’ve left Twitter, or maybe they’ve fallen silent, or maybe the network has deteriorated to the point that I’m just not seeing them being retweeted by mutuals.”

There’s no handy compass to help climate scientists as they navigate these roiling waters. Many of them have opened accounts on alternate platforms, and many are advertising those new accounts at the top of their Twitter feeds.

However, there isn’t yet a critical mass on these alternate sites anywhere close to the number of people that Twitter still reaches.

Weather and climate researcher Andrew Dessler, a professor at Texas A&M University, joined Twitter in 2013. He told Texas Climate News: “It doesn’t really matter to me if climate trolls or deniers show up on Twitter. I don’t engage with them. What matters is if the audience I do want to engage with leaves Twitter.

“Based on my admittedly anecdotal analytics, it does appear that some of my audience has left Twitter. I’ll stay here as long as there’s a reasonable audience for my thoughts.…Once that’s no longer the case, I’ll leave too.”

Geeta Persad is an assistant professor of climate science at the University of Texas at Austin who joined Twitter in 2017. The early career scientist recently used the platform to help publicize a commentary in the journal Nature on which she served as lead author, stressing the need to consider aerosols – airborne particles, including dust and soot – in climate assessments.

“Twitter has been a valuable tool for building community and visibility and for knowledge sharing in my scientific area,” Persad told TCN. “I’ve made a conscious effort over the last few years to increase my Twitter activity and build a Twitter following as part of my scientific outreach plans.

“I have seen a drop-off in the reach of my posts since the Twitter transition, and it’s disheartening to think that my investment in building a Twitter following might be wasted if the service goes under. For early career faculty, visibility and time are both incredibly important, and losing the investment in my Twitter visibility would be a blow.”


7 Responses to “Musk Pumps Climate Denial on Twitter”

  1. renewableguy Says:

    We have a disease in the United States. It keeps people from seeing reality.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It’s not just the US. Over a billion humans think a sentient being created the universe and that they can communicate with “him” telepathically.

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    The 1st Amendment rewards people who say unpopular things (by allowing them to remain unmolested). Twitter, and other social media, reward ‘people’ who say popular things (I say ‘people’ because on twitter they may not even be people). Musk is saving twitter for the 1st Amendment, apparently unaware that twitter and the 1st Amendment have little in common. The 1st Amendment protects you. Twitter protects speech (which may be yours, may be Putin’s, or may be AI). And the more ‘likes’ the speech got, the more it is ‘protected’.

    ‘Q’ is someone on the internet who started a movement that nearly, and may yet, topple the World’s oldest democracy. Does the 1st amendment protect ‘Q’? Assuming ‘Q’ is a person, yes. But isn’t it passing strange that you can do that on the internet, and not need the 1st amendment’s protection due to anonymity? Nobody could have done that when ‘Free Speech’ was first protected. But we were never protecting ‘Speech’. We were protecting ‘Speakers’, who now, under the cover of anonymity need no protection at all (and may not even be human). Not least the ‘protection’ Elon Musk is so generously affording them.

    The 1st Amendment protects Speakers. It’s time to protect Listeners. And ‘Speech’? It never needed protection. It was always as Free as the Wind. And (wind-power excluded), generally about as useful.

    • redskylite Says:

      Well certainly Musk doesn’t support totally free speech, only that what suits his mysterious agenda. He soon clamped down on the Musk trackers.

      • jimbills Says:

        Twitter abruptly suspends more than half a dozen journalists

        “Twitter suspended the accounts of more than half a dozen journalists from CNN, the New York Times, The Washington Post and other outlets Thursday evening.

        Many of the suspended accounts had recently written about a dispute between the platform’s owner, Elon Musk, and another Twitter user who had tracked the billionaire’s private jet travels.

        The suspensions Thursday evening came without warning or explanation from Twitter. They include Washington Post technology reporter Drew Harwell, who discovered he was unable to log into his account or tweet around 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

        Aaron Rupar, a Substack writer with nearly 800,000 followers on Twitter, had his account suspended minutes earlier, according to screenshots taken by other users.

        New York Times technology reporter Ryan Mac also appears to have been suspended around the same time. He had published an article on Wednesday about Twitter suspending accounts that used public data to track the location of Musk’s private plane.”

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      The 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is supposed to prevent US government entities (federal, state, local) from making laws punishing people for expressing critical opinions. The monarchy the colonies broke from could punish anyone who criticized the king or the empire and make them political prisoners (or execute them).

      A lot of speech isn’t protected by the 1st Amendment, including fraud, advocating violence and endangering people.

      It is law in China, Russia, Iran, Myanmar and many other countries where it is legally forbidden to criticize the leaders or their governments. (Some countries don’t bother with explicit laws: They just have political opposition rounded up whenever it suits them.)

      Twitter is a private company whose business model used to be data collection and advertising. Most major advertisers don’t want their products associated with Nazis or racists or incels or shit-stirrers or revenge porn. If Musk wants to turn Twitter into a sewer like Parler he can kiss that ad revenue goodbye.

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