Climate doomism gaining ground of social media channels

Climate doomism gaining ground of social media channels
The 'Rosetta Stone of Climate' sculpture in Brussels with a message which denounces climate change denial. Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck.

In 2020, a study suggested that fear was a "useful motivator" to trigger better population engagement. However, this fear, mixed with fatalistic data on the state of the planet, has created another danger: "climate doomism", reports RTBF.

In recent years, scientists and conservationists have repeatedly sounded the alarm about climate disasters, the harmful effects of pollution and the loss of biodiversity. In the face of institutions and governments continuing to fund oil and gas projects, some scientists and climate activists are using the language of fear.

The term "climate doomism" refers to the belief that the planet has passed its point of no return and that there is nothing more to be done to save it. It unsurprisingly contaminates social networks like Instagram and TikTok, where the climate crisis remains a hot topic.

Opposition to climate doomism

Scientist Alaina Wood said that the phenomenon of "climate doomism" is very popular among Generation Z, a phenomenon that she tries to challenge through her TikTok channel. For her, this kind of catastrophic speech could convince people to give up and stop all climate initiatives. The idea that the fight against global warming is already lost is, according to the University of Cambridge, one of the twelve reasons why climate action is being delayed.

Climate scientist Friederike Otto is also in opposition to these prophets of the apocalypse, whose arguments are based on unverified facts. "I don't think it's helpful to pretend that climate change will lead to the extinction of humanity," she recently said in an interview with the BBC.

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Scientists agree that awareness is not only increased by climate crises but that there are also positive climate changes, contrary to what one might think. For example, China has removed giant pandas, long threatened by climate change, from its endangered species list.

On TikTok, despite the expansion of this phenomenon, socionauts are mobilising to give tips on how to avoid falling for climate doomism. For example, one use, Sweet Sustainability, gives three simple tips:

  • Read good climate information such as eco-innovations or discoveries of environmental solutions;
  • Try to carry out concrete actions on a small scale such as reducing waste or buying second-hand clothes;
  • Take part in environmental collective actions, such as those of local associations.

Education, awareness-raising and activism are essential to combat global warming. With information-rich platforms like TikTok, young people are confronted with algorithms that do not spare them fake news. For the moment, no solution has been proposed by TikTok to promote verified and encouraging activist environmental content.

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