How big is the social media gap between deniers and hawks?
The world’s most well-known climate science denier, Sen. James Inhofe, has a whopping 13.3 thousand followers. The world’s most well-known climate hawk, Al Gore, has 2.58 million followers on Twitter (subscribe here).
Famous writer-denier James Delingpole (one of the UK Guardian‘s four suggested deniers to follow on Twitter) has 12,900 followers. Compare that to these writer-hawks:
- Bill McKibben: 69,400 (subscribe here)
- Dave Roberts: 28,800 (subscribe here)
- Kate Sheppard: 38,600 (subscribe here)
Grist itself has 97,500 followers (subscribe here).
Climate Progress has 36,900 followers (subscribe here). And, as I noted recently, a key reason our traffic has been growing in the past year is social media, which also routinely brings CP headlines to hundreds of thousands of people.
Heck, even Watts’ bête noire, climatologist Michael Mann, has 6,800 followers! And you should really follow Mann (here) if you don’t already. He tweets links to the science and to debunkings of deniers. That way you can join the growing ranks of those who don’t read the deniers’ websites. The traffic of WattsUpWithThat, like ever other major denial site, has been flat or declining since Copenhagen (check it out at quantcast.com).
I don’t think it is a big mystery why climate science hawks soar on social media and deniers don’t.
The Internet was made possible by scientists, with a little help from Al Gore. More importantly, science is inherently a social enterprise — whereas denial, being anti-science, is in some sense an anti-social activity whose goal is to stop society from listening to the scientific community about the ever-growing risks to society posed by unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases.
Science is an exciting voyage of discovery in which people build on each others’ work toward a better and better understanding of life and the world around us. As Newton wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
For deniers, who are on a monotonous treadmill of anti-truth, misunderstanding, and disinformation, the quote might be, “If I have seen nothing, it is by standing with my head in the ground” (or maybe, “… it is by standing on my own shoulders”!)
WattsUpWithThat has finally noticed the importance of social media in an unintentionally humorous post dated January 2, “Why social media is important in the #climatewars.” That would be January 2, 2013, not, say, 2009.
Watts is shocked, shocked to learn that climate hawks and activists have been using twitter and social media as “glue for the cause” and yes — oh, the horror — to communicate with each other! That’s of course why it is called social media. Watts admits:
A few years ago, I never much thought social media was worth much, but seeing how Michael Mann and Bill McKibben have been using it to their advantage, my view on the importance of it has changed.
[Memo to Deniers: Try replacing "social media" with "science" in the above sentence.]
Of course, the deniers have never been very good with either numbers or web tools. Until I called him out, Watts used to regularly hype himself with the most discredited web metric (hits!) — and the ironically named climateaudit.org still does. Of course Watts has used the unreliable Alexa web statistics comparison website for years — and recently used it to attack Al Gore. He might enjoy this post from Techcrunch, “If You Cite Compete Or Alexa For Anything Besides Making Fun Of Them, You’re A Moron.” D’oh!
Anyway, the point of Watts’ post is to boost the deniers’ use of social media, apparently for the usual quote mining and disinformation. I don’t actually think it’s very good for those things because, being social, it just ends up embarrassing anyone who uses it to spread falsehoods. Then again, if the deniers have proven anything conclusively, it is that they are beyond embarrassment.
Bottom Line: You may see an increase in disinformation on social media. The antidote is to subscribe to some must-follow twitter accounts of climate hawks listed above.