Amid the ongoing disruption of COVID-19, the focus on addressing climate change has seemingly taken a back seat, though scientists have warned that the threat of climate disruption has not reduced, and has in fact, intensified over the last year and a half, ramping up the need for immediate and significant action.
This week, Facebook is taking up the cause, with the announcement of a range of new features designed to raise awareness about climate change impacts, while it’s also funding a new program aimed at addressing climate misinformation across its platforms.
First off, Facebook has announced the expansion of its Climate Science Information Center, which it first launched in selected countries last September as a means to connect users with accurate, timely climate information.
The hub is now available in 16 countries, and is visited by over 100k people daily. And now Facebook’s looking to make it a more engaging, informative element.
As explained by 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 new additions will ideally make it a more engaging experience, and facilitate more discussion and knowledge-sharing around climate change impacts.
The updates will also make a lot of the information on the Center easier to share, which could prompt more users to spread the word throughout their Facebook networks, helping to further the discussion about such impacts.
In addition to this, Facebook’s also launching a new video series to highlight young climate advocates across Facebook and Instagram.
“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.”
Tapping into the popularity of platform influencers could be another way to spark more discussion about climate change, and shift perceptions through insight.
Facebook will also continue to support the ‘Say It With Science’ video series, which sees the UN Foundation and IPCC bringing together scientists and youth advocates to present the latest climate science insights.
And finally, Facebook says that it’s investing $1 million into a new grant program, in partnership with the International Fact Checking Network, to provide support for organizations working to combat climate misinformation.
“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.”
Which is particularly important in Facebook’s case, because while the platform has implemented a range of new initiatives to amplify accurate information, and address misinformation in posts, Facebook’s scale still sees it fueling certain movements and conspiracy theories that seek to minimize climate change impacts, or even outright deny that anything is happening on this front.
According to reports, Facebook has actually willingly participated in such at times.
Last July, a report found that Facebook had reversed its fact-check labels on some climate-related posts because it was asked to do so by a Republican congressman in the US. A month earlier, Facebook was also found to be allowing many climate denial posts to remain up on its platforms by tagging such as 'opinion', thus making them ineligible for fact checks.
Various climate scientists have criticized Facebook’s inaction on this front, while data shows that counter-science theories often see millions of views on the platform, helping them reach much wider audiences.
Given this, it’s important that Facebook is looking to take action, but it still has a way to go in taking a meaningful stance against climate misinformation, and addressing the role that it now plays in the dissemination of such.
The largest interconnected network of people in history can have a big influence in this respect, arguably the biggest of any one organization, and if Facebook takes a stronger stance, that could play a major role in reducing anti-climate change rhetoric, and prompting more action on this front.
You can check out Facebook’s new Climate Science Center here.