Case Study Social Data Social Media Monitoring

Climate change denial around the world: Social media study

Julia Miashkova
by Julia Miashkova on May 25, 2020

There are three things you can watch forever: fire burning, water falling, and climate change skeptics ignoring both and insisting that global warming is a hoax. Neither devastating forest fires nor killer floods seem to have any effect on people relentless in their fight for a Greta Thunberg-free world.  

We at Awario have been watching climate change doubters through the eyes of social media — the natural habitat of people ignorant to nature's outcries but very sensitive to the voices of climate scientists and activists. However, while previously we looked at all climate-related conversations to examine top-performing posts, this time we went directly for the good stuff.

Namely, we embarked on a hashtag listening study — a type of social data analysis that relies on data obtained by hashtag monitoring tools like Awario. We wanted to track down every single usage of #climateaction vs #climatehysteria hashtags to understand once and for all how much leverage climate change skeptics have on social media.

Before we move to the hashtag monitoring insights, here's the math behind it.

Methodology

3 months ago, we set Awario to track all mentions of the hashtags used by the two sides of the climate change debate on social media. 

#climateaction

#climatechange, #climatecrisis, #globalwarming, #climateaction, #climate, #climateemergency 

#climatehysteria

#climatehoax, #climatealarmism, #climatechangealarmism, #climatechangehoax, #climatechangehysteria, #globalwarminghysteria, #climatechangefraud, #climateemergencyhoax, #climatechangescam, #globalwarminghoax, #globalwarmingalarmism, #globalwarmingcult, #climatechangefrenzy, #globalwarmingfraud, #globalwarmingscam, #globalwarmingnonsense, #globalwarmingbullshit, #climatefraud, #climatescam, #climatecult, #climatenonsense, #climatebullshit, #climatechangebullshit, #climatechangenonsense, #climatechangecult

Because we set Awario to track mentions in any location, we were able to check where the mentions came from and map both #climateaction and #climatehysteria hashtags across the world to see:

  1. # of unique social media users who've used climate hashtags in the past 3 months — this would reflect the total volume of climate change conversations in each country,
  2. # of unique social media users per 100K inhabitants — this would give us country-specific shares of people involved in the online climate debate across the globe; 
  3. share of climate change skeptics in each location — this would illustrate the division of social media powers in the online climate debate. 

Finally, we did the same type of social media monitoring for the U.S. specifically. By mapping unique social media users talking climate, we would be able to benchmark this against each state's population and calculate the varying shares of climate change skeptics across the U.S.

Climate debate worldwide

When Awario was done collecting social media posts featuring climate hashtags, we looked at user locations and calculated the number of social media users talking about climate change in each country. For a country to be included, there had to be at least 100 unique social media users who've posted climate hashtags during the 3 months of our study.

We ended up with 37 countries and compared the sheer volumes of conversations irrespective of population counts. The map reads by the saturation of color: the more intense the shade, the bigger the volume of the climate debate. The countries that appear in grey and have no tooltips have had less than 100 unique social media users talking climate change in the past 3 months.

Unique authors using climate-related hashtags

 

Judging by the sheer number of climate hashtags posted by unique social media users, the U.S. takes the lead as the host of the biggest nationwide climate change debate. Top-3 countries with the biggest climate change debate will then be:

  1. USA (42.2K unique social media authors),
  2. UK (23.8K unique social media authors),
  3. Canada (10K unique social media authors).

The climate change debate seems to be most potent in English-speaking countries. This is natural given that the hashtags we have been monitoring are in English, too.

We then benchmarked the number of climate-invested social media users against the countries' population counts. This is how we determined the number of social media users per 100K inhabitants taking part in the climate change debate in each country.

In some countries with large population counts but few social media posts related to climate, the result is less than 1 person per 100K inhabitants, which on our map is marked as 0 persons. Countries with smaller populations, on the other hand, are more likely to end up with higher shares of social media users debating climate.

The more saturated the shade of blue, the more people per 100K inhabitants have used climate hashtags on social media in the past 3 months. 

Usage of climate change hashtags per 100K inhabitants

 

Here, things get an unexpected turn when Iceland comes into the picture. The country is the absolute leader in terms of the number of social media users posting climate hashtags per 100K inhabitants — 67 people. Our top-3 is now as follows:

  1. Iceland (67 unique social media authors per 100K inhabitants),
  2. Ireland (37 unique social media authors per 100K inhabitants),
  3. the UK (36 unique social media authors per 100K inhabitants).

Iceland's leading position can be in part explained by the country's small population size (under half a million people). However, the volume of social media activity is still impressive and comparable to that of much bigger populations. But then again, coming from the country literally built on ice and therefore hit the quickest by global warming, this is not entirely unusual.

While many countries are worried about glaciers melting much quicker, there might be something to learn from Iceland, expanding the conversation to social media and engaging the public to the max.

Climate change skeptics worldwide

Now that we've dealt with country volumes of the climate talk on social media, let's see the shares of climate change skeptics. Here, we took the number of #climatehysteria posts from unique users and divided it by the total number of social media posts featuring climate hashtags in each country. Here's what we found out.

Much like with the previous map, the smaller the total number of climate-related posts, the higher the share of skeptics may be. Respectively, the bigger the total volume of the climate debate, the more likely it is for the skeptics' share to be smaller.

Unlike the previous map, this one is color-coded green to red. The closer to green a country's shade is, the lower its share of climate change skeptics on social media. The closer to red, the bigger the weight of climate change skeptics.

Shares of climate change skeptics in total # of authors 

 

According to the hashtag analysis, North Macedonia is the country with the biggest share of climate skeptics on social media. Again, we're talking a small number of total unique social media users who've been involved in the climate debate — 105 accounts. With 15 of them using #climatehysteria hashtags, the share of skeptics ends up so high. Our top-3 is, therefore:

  1. North Macedonia (14.29% of climate change skeptics on social media),
  2. Georgia (11.82% of climate change skeptics on social media),
  3. Guinea-Bissau (11.11% of climate change skeptics on social media).

All three are countries with smaller total counts of social media authors debating climate change. Canada, meanwhile, would be a more reliable example. With a total of 10K social media users debating climate change over the 3 months of our study, over 1K have been using #climatehysteria hashtags. The result: Canada's share of climate change skeptics on social media is over 10%.

Whether or not the green countries on our map are going green in their environmental efforts, they are definitely thinking in the right direction on social media.

Climate debate in the U.S. 

Next, we examined the climate debate in the U.S. — oftentimes the center of the most heated of climate change discussions. First, we looked at the total number of unique social media users talking about climate change in each state. We're not yet benchmarking user data against the states' population counts and only including states with 100+ unique authors.

This map reads the same as our first maps. The more saturated the shade, the bigger the climate change debate is in a state, irrespective of its population. Again, we remember that smaller states will naturally have fewer climate change mentions and bigger states with large population counts are more likely to be in the lead.

Unique authors using climate-related hashtags

 

Kansas emerges as the state most concerned with climate change and most vocal about it on social media. With a total of 2.6K unique authors who've used climate hashtags over the past 3 months, Kansas proves once again that lessons learned the hard way are learned the best. Tormented by tornados, Kansas residents seem to be naturally more invested in the climate discussion.

That makes our top-3:

  1. Kansas (2.6K unique social media authors),
  2. Kentucky (1.8K unique social media authors),
  3. Oregon (1.7K unique social media authors).

All three states are no strangers to natural hazards, which might explain their inhabitants' active involvement in the online climate change debate.

Let's now take a look at how the total numbers of unique social media authors using climate change hashtags compare to the states' population counts. Here, we calculated the number of participants in the climate debate on social media per 100K inhabitants for each state.

Usage of climate change hashtags per 100K inhabitants

 

When we put user counts into perspective, the state most vocal about climate change on social media turns out to be South Dakota — 115 social media authors per 100K inhabitants concerned with increasingly severe droughts and extreme heat. Kansas comes next, proving its commitment to the climate debate on social media, even benchmarked against other states. 

Our top-3 is therefore as follows:

  1. South Dakota (115 unique social media authors per 100K inhabitants),
  2. Kansas (91 unique social media authors per 100K inhabitants),
  3. Kentucky (41 unique social media authors per 100K inhabitants).

Climate change skeptics in the U.S. 

Finally, we set off to calculate the share of climate change skeptics on social media in each U.S. state. To do this, we divided the number of unique authors using #climatehysteria hashtags by the total number of social media users involved in the climate debate in each state.

The map reads green to red, with green representing the lowest shares of climate change skeptics and red flagging the states with the most active usage of #climatehysteria hashtags. The statistical rule still holds true: the smaller the total number of climate-invested social media users there is in a state, the higher its odds of having a big share of climate skeptics.

Shares of climate skeptics in total # of authors 

 

Nevada takes the lead right away: out of the unique authors taking part in the climate debate online, 14% have used #climatehysteria hashtags. That's the highest share of climate change skeptics active on social media across the U.S. The complete top-3 is:

  1. Nevada (14% of climate change skeptics on social media),
  2. Oklahoma (12% of climate change skeptics on social media),
  3. Louisiana (11.24% of climate change skeptics on social media).

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we find Hawaii, with only 1% of climate change skeptics on social media. Even though this is in part explained by the state's modest population size, merely 1% of climate change denial hashtags in 3 months is still impressive by itself.

Final thoughts 

As the planet is getting hotter, so does the climate change debate on social media. In some locations, the debate is more vibrant and things are greener than in others, but as a rule, there's always a climate change skeptic out there, ready to join the conversation.

Looking at climate change skepticism through the eyes of social media, what we see varies location to location. There's a driving force to either side of the climate debate, and hashtags analysis is one of the tools to measure their leverage. Worldwide, climate change skeptics on social media are still a minority, but there are always dynamics to keep tabs on.

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