CLEAN Teleconference Call February 21, 2017

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Provenance: Noun Project
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Provenance: Daniela Pennycook, University of Colorado at Boulder
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The Good, the Bad, and the ALL CAPS: Examining the Climate Change Debate on Facebook

Abstract: The conversation about climate change on social media never fails to be illuminating. To learn more about the climate change conversation on Facebook, over 600 comments from 6 articles about climate science were analyzed. Every post was read and scored for the content, tone, and rationale. Although all the comments were posted on Facebook, the originating articles were from six different sources: the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, NOAA, and NASA.

The analysis showed that the proportion of posts that dismiss climate science is greater than the proportion of people in the US who do not believe in anthropogenic climate change. In other words, the dismissive voices have an outsized effect compared to nationwide public opinion. Analysis of the tone of the posts showed that uncivil behavior was freely demonstrated by people on both sides of the issue, but was significantly more common among detractors of climate science. Deeper analysis of the tone of the conversation showed that it varied widely depending on the hosting page. The conversations at NOAA and NASA were the most productive, while the comments at Fox News were the most vitriolic. These conclusions were reached via quantitative analyses.

Understanding the discourse around climate change can help educators predict the types of misconceptions and disinformation their students are likely to encounter. Furthermore, learning about the flow of topics and user behaviors can help government and environmental agencies manage their interactions on social media. Lastly, as scientists and educators, being attentive to this conversation allows us to be more effective in our own efforts to share scientific information with disparate audiences.

Bio: Karin Kirk has been a member of the CLEAN team since the inception of the project. Her recent projects include a usability study of NOAA's web portal, co-authoring high school climate science curriculum, and writing about climate change for ski and snowboard instructors. In this Facebook study, she collaborated with John Cook of Skeptical Science, as part of a larger effort to characterize the many facets of climate denial. Karin recently delivered a TEDx talk, "Healing the Divide on Climate Change."

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CLEAN CollectionTeaching about Climate and Energy