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WIREs Clim Change
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Online misinformation about climate change

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Abstract Policymakers, scholars, and practitioners have all called attention to the issue of misinformation in the climate change debate. But what is climate change misinformation, who is involved, how does it spread, why does it matter, and what can be done about it? Climate change misinformation is closely linked to climate change skepticism, denial, and contrarianism. A network of actors are involved in financing, producing, and amplifying misinformation. Once in the public domain, characteristics of online social networks, such as homophily, polarization, and echo chambers—characteristics also found in climate change debate—provide fertile ground for misinformation to spread. Underlying belief systems and social norms, as well as psychological heuristics such as confirmation bias, are further factors which contribute to the spread of misinformation. A variety of ways to understand and address misinformation, from a diversity of disciplines, are discussed. These include educational, technological, regulatory, and psychological‐based approaches. No single approach addresses all concerns about misinformation, and all have limitations, necessitating an interdisciplinary approach to tackle this multifaceted issue. Key research gaps include understanding the diffusion of climate change misinformation on social media, and examining whether misinformation extends to climate alarmism, as well as climate denial. This article explores the concepts of misinformation and disinformation and defines disinformation to be a subset of misinformation. A diversity of disciplinary and interdisciplinary literature is reviewed to fully interrogate the concept of misinformation—and within this, disinformation—particularly as it pertains to climate change. This article is categorized under: Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Communication
Hierarchy of information, misinformation, and disinformation
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Summary of the key elements of climate change misinformation
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A summary of the potential ways to counteract misinformation found in the literature, along with their criticisms and caveats [1: Cook et al., 2018; 2: Zucker, 2019; 3: Roozenbeek & van der Linden, 2019; 4: Epstein et al., 2019; 5: Lutzke et al., 2019; 6: Sullivan et al., 2014; 7: Hess & Collins, 2018; 8: Bedford, 2010; 9: Bedford et al., 2014; 10: Bedford & Cook, 2013; 11: Legates et al., 2013; 12: Legates et al., 2015; 13: McNeal et al., 2014; 14: Cook et al., 2017; 15: Cook et al., 2015; 16: van der Linden et al., 2017; 17: Shao, Ciampaglia, et al., 2018; 18: Safieddine et al., 2016; 19: Pennycook & Rand, 2019; 20: Fernandez & Alani, 2018; 21: Vicario et al., 2016; 22: Leetaru, 2018; 23: Pew Research Center, 2017; 24: Mavrovic, 2018; 25: Henley, 2018; 26: European Commission, 2018; 27: Lawrence & Estow, 2017; 28: Kahan, 2017; 29: Benegal & Scruggs, 2018; 30: Harvey et al., 2018; 31: Nyhan & Reifler, 2010; 32: Garrett & Weeks, 2013; 33: Anderson et al., 1980; 34: Thorson, 2016; 35: Funke, 2019; 36: ALA, 2019; 37: Tompros et al., 2017]
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The interconnected characteristics of online social networks, and their underpinning human and platform factors, which may increase the susceptibility of social media users to consume, accept, and spread misinformation
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The climate change misinformation network [1: Bjornberg et al., 2017; 2: Dunlap & McCright, 2011; 3: McCright & Dunlap, 2011; 4: Dunlap, 2013; 5: Schafer, 2015; 6: Ding et al., 2011; 7: Elgesem et al., 2015; 8: Sharman, 2014; 9: Matthews, 2015; 10: Boussalis & Coan, 2018; 11: Elsasser & Dunlap, 2013; 12: Farrell, 2016a; 13: Farrell, 2016b; 14:Farrell, 2019; 15: Brulle, 2014; 16: Goldberg et al., 2020]
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Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Communication

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