Written by Roland Lloyd-Parry and Benedict Rey with Adria Laborda in Barcelona and Kate Tan in Sydney
Once the news was trusted, meteorologists now encourage online threats, insults, and slander from conspiracy theorists and climate change deniers who accuse them of faking or even fixing the weather.
Twitter and other social media users falsely accused Spain’s Meteorological Agency of orchestrating the drought, Australia of manipulating its thermometers, and France of exaggerating global warming through misplaced weather stations.
“Coronavirus is no longer a trend. The conspiracy theorists and deniers who used to talk about it are now spreading disinformation about climate change,” Alexandre López Burol, a lecturer in media and communication sciences at the Open University of Catalonia, told AFP.
“These scientific bodies are seen as part of the establishment, so anything they say may be contested on social networks.
“They present evidence against what the climate deniers claim, so the latter is trying to discredit them.”
In a brutal drought and with local elections approaching, Spain’s Meteorological Agency (AEMET) has spoken out after its members were threatened in Twitter messages, phone calls and emails.
The messages shouted “murderers”, “criminals”, “you will pay for this”, “we are watching you”.
They come from people who believe in the widely debunked theory that aircraft condensate trails are really “chemical trails” sprayed by authorities to poison people or create air disasters.
Some have pointed to the “2030 Agenda,” a bogus theory that global elites are conspiring to subjugate people through COVID and climate politics.
“Would you like us to publish your and your family’s contact details?” Read one tweet addressed to an AEMET employee.
Another said, “Crooks! You are destroying nature under the orders of the damned Agenda 2030.”
“We have seen an increase in derogatory messages as a result of a topic we published about ramping up tracks” on April 10, AEMET spokeswoman Estrella Gutierrez Marco told AFP.
“What does not make sense is that they insult an institution that constantly watches over its interests, and whose purpose is to … contribute to the safety of the people.”
López Burrol noted a “significant increase” in climate change denial – particularly among far-right supporters who see it as a left-wing issue and oppose reforms aimed at limiting its effects.
“People don’t trust politicians, judges and the media, and the cost of living is going up,” he said.
“In this context, people feel alienated and end up listening to people they haven’t listened to before, with messages that directly appeal to emotions.”
In another case investigated by fact-checking AFP, conservative media and Facebook users shared unsubstantiated claims that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) had adjusted temperature readings.
In an analysis of data obtained via a Freedom of Information request, prominent climate skeptic Jennifer Maruhase said BOM’s electronic probes returned readings up to 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than those of older mercury thermometers.
Experts who analyzed the data said the claims were inaccurate.
Monash University Professor Emeritus of Environment Neville Nicholls said the difference between most readings on the electronic probes and mercury thermometers was tiny – between zero and 0.1 degrees Celsius (0.18 degrees Fahrenheit).
“This difference is very small compared to the strong warming trend in the average temperature over Australia” – about 1.4 degrees Celsius over the past century, Nicholls told AFP.
The World Meteorological Organization told AFP that the BOM’s measurements were in line with its standards, contrary to Marouhsi’s claims.
temperatures in France
After a series of March heat records in southwestern France, a critic on social media posted a thread alleging that the country’s national weather service exaggerated the warming by relying on readings from stations in urban areas, where temperatures are usually higher.
The thread received over 139,000 views and went viral on Facebook.
One woman commented on the thread, referring to the weather service, Meteo-France, as “another way of making us feel fear and guilt.”
“Fortunately, fewer and fewer people believe them after the COVID works. I’m glad I didn’t see their predictions on France TV.”
Climate scientists consulted by AFP debunked the claims, pointing out that the limited network of 30 weather stations referred to in the topic is not what scientists use to measure climate change, as climate has been observed to change in rural areas.
“Meteo-France researchers are using all possible measures and creating computer models with different hypotheses and a longer time frame for analysis,” said Christine Byrne, a climate scientist at the service.
“You can be sure that we don’t just have 30 small weather stations.”
A Twitter user accused Dutch channel RTL Nieuws of exaggerating the late April heatwave in Spain, posting as evidence a screenshot showing mild temperatures on the Costa Blanca.
However, his screenshot was taken three days after the heatwave, in the cool of the morning.
Some full AFP checks on these topics are available at u.afp.com/ibQg, u.afp.com/ibQj, and (in French) u.afp.com/ibwv.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: Meteorologists Targeted at Surge of Climate Misinfo (2023, May 13), Retrieved May 13, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-meteorologists-climate-misinfo-surge.html
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