Fighting climate change is also about fighting disinformation

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Fighting climate change is also about fighting disinformation

Written by Silvia Gomes y Joaquim Ramos

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“Don’t ruin the world, we still have a lot to do here
Don’t ruin the world, otherwise how will you live here?
It’s just friction and debris in the soul
Hot earth, cold war, caring environment
Summits of calm are scheduled
Cease fire, arson, a thousand failed agreements”
(Quadrilha)

Climate change is the biggest social, economic and environmental challenge that citizens, governments and territories are facing and will continue to face in the future. However, its recognition as a problem that affects society, the environment and biodiversity is still not fully understood by citizens, local government decision-makers and companies. Part of this problem arises from the intense flow of disinformation, fake news and greenwashing schemes that hit social networks, the media, political and economic campaigns, books and articles, among others.

Fighting disinformation

Fighting disinformation is crucial. Why is this so?

  • It is an obstacle to collective action: Disinformation can influence people’s attitudes towards climate change, leading them to believe that the problem is exaggerated, that it is not real, or that it is not caused by human activity, undermining support for collective action and the implementation of effective climate policies.
  • It favors the interests of polluting sectors: Some companies and groups have an interest in discrediting science in relation to the knowledge produced on climate change in order to avoid regulations that would affect their profits, and they often fund disinformation campaigns to protect these interests, making it even more difficult to act against climate change.
  • Divide public opinion: Disinformation can polarize the debate on climate change by creating political and social divisions that make it difficult for people to understand the true nature of climate change and its consequences and to formulate effective policies.

However, this misinformation can be combated. To do this, we need to focus on:

  • Education and awareness: Promoting climate literacy and understanding of climate issues is essential. This can be achieved through formal education, awareness campaigns and the dissemination of accurate information on climate change.
  • Promoting responsibility in the media: Media companies play a key role in the dissemination of information. Promoting ethical standards and rigorous fact-checking are crucial to prevent the spread of disinformation.
  • Regulation and accountability: Governments and regulators can play an important role in regulating false information related to climate change. This can include laws that penalize deliberate disinformation.
  • Promoting science and credible research: Investing in credible scientific research and supporting the dissemination of evidence-based information is key to combating disinformation.
  • Civic engagement: The active participation of society in promoting accurate information on climate change is crucial. This can include participating in local initiatives, putting pressure on companies and governments and advocating for evidence-based policies.

The reports speak for themselves

Despite the inclusion of this issue on global political agendas, such as the Paris Agreement, the latest Global Risks Report (GRPS) for 2023 from the World Economic Forum itself reveals that “climate and nature-related risks lead the top 10 risks, by severity, that are expected to manifest over the next decade. Differentiated as separate risks for the first time in the GRPS, the failure to mitigate climate change and the failure to adapt to climate change lead the ranking of the most serious risks on a global scale, followed by the most serious risks on a global scale”.

The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Assessment Report stresses that “climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to ensure a livable future for all. Climate resilient development integrates adaptation and mitigation to promote environmentally responsible and socially just societies, and is enabled by increased international cooperation, including better access to adequate financial resources, in particular for vulnerable regions, sectors and groups, and inclusive governance and coordinated policies.”

Action is urgently needed!

Anthropogenic actions are already affecting all regions and continents on a daily basis, with more frequent and more intense extreme events such as heat waves, extreme precipitation, severe droughts, floods, storms and fires, but also a greater risk of spreading diseases and pests, epidemics and pandemics – evidence that the climate crisis is already a reality. In this context, countries and cities have adopted strategies and measures to adapt to climate change (National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change 2025, Municipal Strategies for Adaptation to Climate Change), given that the severity of these phenomena, and their associated effects, will be enhanced in urban spaces and regions where the capacity to adapt is low and local public policies are non-existent in this field. Inevitably, there is an urgent need for cities and regions to be prepared to implement mitigation measures and adaptation solutions in various sectors of society and the economy, namely agriculture, biodiversity, energy and energy security, forests, human health, safety of people and goods, transport, communications and coastal zones.

With Europe’s economy and society shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU leaders asked the European Commission to come up with a plan to quickly reduce the EU’s overdependence on Russian imports of gas, oil and coal. The Commission presented the REPowerEU plan on May 18, 2022. The REPowerEU plan is based on the full implementation of the Objective 55 package, which sets the goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050, in line with the European Green Deal.

Against this international backdrop, cities, municipalities and their political decision-makers must urgently find the means and tools to implement adaptation solutions based on technical-scientific knowledge and good practices. 

The role of environmental education

In this sense, Environmental Education for Sustainability plays an important role in improving the level of local knowledge about climate change and promoting the integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation into sectoral policies and territorial planning instruments through the active participation of civil society – only in this way will we have decarbonized and resilient municipalities, where citizens will have access to safe, affordable and renewable energy, as well as the enjoyment of a healthier and more public environment accessible to all.

Increasing the resilience of urban areas and reducing the significant impacts on natural, social and economic systems will only be possible if there is environmentally responsible risk management and a socially just transition, in which all citizens have an active voice in proposing, analyzing, discussing, monitoring and evaluating local public policies. 

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EASY

Fighting climate change is also about fighting disinformation

Written by Silvia Gomes y Joaquim Ramos

“Don’t ruin the world, we still have a lot to do here
Don’t ruin the world, otherwise how will you live here?
It’s just friction and debris in the soul
Hot earth, cold war, caring environment
Summits of calm are scheduled
Cease fire, arson, a thousand failed agreements”
(Quadrilha)

Climate change is the biggest social, economic and environmental challenge that citizens, governments and territories are facing and will face in the future. However, a full understanding of its scope, affecting society, the environment and biodiversity, is still not fully understood due to the flow of disinformation, fake news and greenwashing schemes that hit social networks, the media, political and economic campaigns, books and articles.

Fighting disinformation

Fighting disinformation is crucial. Why is this so?

  • It is an obstacle to collective action: Disinformation can influence people’s attitudes towards climate change, leading them to believe that the problem is exaggerated or that it is not caused by human activity, undermining support for collective action and the implementation of effective climate policies.
  • It favors the interests of polluting sectors: Some companies and groups have an interest in discrediting science in relation to the knowledge produced on climate change in order to avoid regulations that would affect their profits, and they often fund disinformation campaigns to protect these interests, making it even more difficult to act against climate change.
  • Divide public opinion: Disinformation can polarize the debate on climate change by creating political and social divisions that make it difficult for people to understand the true nature of climate change and its consequences, and to formulate effective policies.

However, this misinformation can be combated. To do this, we need to focus on:

  • Education and awareness: Promoting climate literacy and understanding of climate issues is essential. This can be achieved through formal education, awareness campaigns and the dissemination of accurate information on climate change.
  • Promoting responsibility in the media: Media companies play a key role in disseminating information. Promoting ethical standards and rigorous fact-checking are crucial to prevent the spread of disinformation.
  • Regulation and accountability: Governments and regulators can play an important role in regulating false information related to climate change. This can include laws that penalize deliberate disinformation.
  • Promoting science and credible research: Investing in credible scientific research and supporting the dissemination of evidence-based information is key to combating disinformation.
  • Civic engagement: The active participation of society in promoting accurate information on climate change is crucial. This can include participating in local initiatives, putting pressure on companies and governments and advocating for evidence-based policies.

The reports speak for themselves

Despite global recognition of climate change issues on political agendas, such as the Paris Agreement, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 reveals that risks related to climate and nature are the 10 most serious risks expected to manifest themselves in the next decade. These risks include the inability to mitigate climate change and the inability to adapt to it. 

Action is urgently needed!

The impact of anthropogenic actions on regions and continents has been growing, resulting in more frequent and serious extreme phenomena, such as heat waves, heavy rains, severe droughts, floods, storms, fires and an increased risk of disease outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics. These occurrences serve as proof that the climate crisis is already a reality. To meet these challenges, both countries and cities have been adopting strategies and measures to adapt to climate change, such as the National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change until 2025 and the Municipal Strategies for Adaptation to Climate Change.

The severity of these climate phenomena and the associated effects will be amplified in urban areas and regions with limited adaptive capacity and lacking local public policies in this area. It is therefore imperative that cities and regions prepare to implement mitigation measures and adaptation solutions in various sectors of society and the economy, including agriculture, biodiversity, energy and energy security, forests, human health, security, transport, communications and coastal zones.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its impact on the European economy and society, EU leaders asked the European Commission to develop a plan to reduce the EU’s heavy dependence on Russian imports of gas, oil and coal. The Commission presented the REPowerEU plan, approved on May 18, 2022, which is based on the full implementation of the Objective 55 package, aimed at reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050, in line with the European Green Deal.

Given this international context, cities, municipalities and their political leaders must urgently find the means and tools to implement scientifically-informed adaptation solutions based on best practices to meet the challenges posed by climate change and energy security issues.

The role of environmental education

Environmental Education for Sustainability plays a very important role in strengthening local knowledge about climate change and promoting the integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation into sectoral policies and territorial planning instruments. This is achieved through the active participation of citizens, resulting in decarbonized and resilient municipalities, where citizens have access to safe, affordable and renewable energy, and a healthier environment accessible to all.

Increasing the resilience of urban areas and reducing significant impacts on natural, social and economic systems requires environmentally responsible risk management and a socially just transition. In this context, all citizens must have an active voice in proposing, analyzing, discussing, monitoring and evaluating local public policies.

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