Google Fuels Climate Change Denial

Did you know that Google plays a role in climate change denial? Yes, the company whose search engine we all know and rely on fails to stop climate change denial

Google promised last fall to stop monetizing climate change denial content through its Google Ads business, starting November 9, 2021. New research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate reveals that Google Ads still runs 50 new climate denial articles from 14 different publishers, including Breitbart, Electroverse, and Western Journal. The 50 articles reached 48,761 interactions on Facebook, with all articles published after November 8, 2021. The subjects range from calling global warming a hoax to attacking climate science as “alarmism.”

“It appears Google is spreading disinformation about its efforts to fight disinformation,” says Michael Khoo, co-chair of the climate change disinformation coalition at Friends of the Earth

“It’s bad enough Google hosts so much climate denial on YouTube,” Khoo says, “but it’s even worse if they’re lying about their reforms. Google must do much more to stop the spread of climate denial.”

The top 10 super polluter publishers

The Center for Countering Digital Hate released a report before COP26 showing that social media posts linking to articles from 10 “super polluter” publishers account for 69 percent of Facebook interactions with climate change denial content. The websites of the ten publishers received almost 1.1 billion visits in the six months before COP26. They earned $3.6 million as part of Google’s AdSense platform. Google AdSense gets money from companies like Capital One, DHL International, and Chevrolet. All three of those companies’ ads have run on the websites of the ten publishers.

The report further shows that Facebook is not at the top of its game dealing with climate change denial. Facebook did not label 92 percent of posts containing content from the ten publishers cited in the report. Almost all (99.5 percent) of user interactions on Facebook with posts containing content from the ten publishers were with posts containing no information or fact-checking labels. 

The report recommends that Google remove these sites from their AdSense platform. Doing so will line the company up with its commitment not to fund climate change denial. The Center for Countering Digital Hate petition demands that Google take urgent action. Google must take urgent action to remove sites publishing climate change denial content from AdSense. 

Americans and climate change denial

Climate change denial is found among a third of all Americans. A Washington Post-ABC News survey finds that 67 percent of respondents believe that climate change is a serious problem for the U.S. The survey also found that 31 percent of Americans think climate change is not a problem.

Climate change denial is also found in Congress. An analysis last year by the Center for American Progress found 139 members of Congress, including 109 representatives and 30 senators, who are climate change deniers. All of the 139 deniers made statements in 2021, doubting the reality of climate change. They have also received over $61 million in contributions from the coal, oil, and gas industries. They comprise 52 percent of House Republicans, 60 percent of Senate Republicans, and over one-quarter of Congress. 

A 2014 article in the European Journal of American Studies finds that climate change denial is a combination of the small-government conservative ideology opposition to regulation and a defense of the American way of life, which is “defined by high consumption and ever-expanding material prosperity.” In other words, Republicans who want consumption without responsibility are fueling climate change denial in America. 

What will it take for companies like Google to stop fueling American climate change denial? 


Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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