Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the theory of anthropogenic climate change, it remains a controversial and polarizing issue in American politics. A large majority of mainstream climate research supports the theory which states that human activity and specifically the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide levels from burning fossil fuels, is causing a rise in global temperatures. For liberals, climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our time. The main perpetrators are rampant consumerism and the undue influence of powerful fossil fuel corporations. In line the left’s suspicion of corporate America and the need for a concerted governmental intervention, climate change advocacy fits well within the liberal ethos.
In contrast, climate change sits very uncomfortable with a conservative ideology as the popularity of #Climatehoax among conservatives attests. Government regulation, carbon taxes, global treaties limiting the capacity of American industry? Most of the actions that liberals call for to combat climate change are entirely antithetical to conservative values. While a few conservatives recognize climate change as a legitimate concern, most consider it with great skepticism. Many see it more likely as a hoax being perpetuated by the government and scientists to attack on the free market capitalism and expand the government’s power.
#Climatehoax and #Climatescam are the dominant hashtags for conservatives to share their opinions and articles about the grand liberal hoax. #Greenscam is another popular tag specific to the cause. All three currently have popularity ratings hovering around 30 according to Hastagify.me. Interestingly, the popularity of using these climate change specific tags seems to fluctuate massively on a weekly basis. The pro climate change action tags remain quite stable with popularity ratings near 60. The climate change denier tags are strongly correlated with the more general tags #tcot (Top Conservatives on Twitter) and #PJNET (Patriot Journalist Network) both of which are much more popular and stable hashtags.
My initial theory on why the climate hoax tags are unstable and relatively unpopular is that the issue is mainly a reactionary one for conservatives. Unlike the situation that liberals face, climate change is not a persistent problem waiting to be addressed. Climate deniers only need to fight against any impending actions or momentary widespread concern. No action besides defense is needed. In the lull between the release of a major climate change study or a pro environmental action by President Obama, climate change is a non-issue because it simply does not exist or at least is not due to anthropogenic causes. Linking climate hoax specific tags to more general conservative tags may be a way to bolster climate change denialist support when issues arrive. Hopefully some major climate change news will break during this monitoring project and provide a natural test for that hypothesis.
Quite unexpectedly the most influential figure in the #Climatehoax community is the actor James Wood according to Hastagify.me. The next greatest user is WSCP1 with 12,00 followers pales in comparison to RealJamesWood with 412,000 followers. Apparently James Wood is a very outspoken conservative and climate change denier. User WSCP1 is affiliated with the Patriot Journalist Network and is dedicated to “Dispelling Obama regime & leftist media lies” (https://twitter.com/WSCP1?lang=en).
The tweets circulating around #Climatehoax and associated tags are primarily concerned with exposing scientists or politicians tampering with the data that supports anthropogenic climate change or pointing to current weather conditions that seem to contradict the predictions of climate change science. The first method of attempting to discount the scientific consensus is needed because of the persuasiveness scientific evidence generally holds. The second prominent tact appeals to many users sense that weather patterns are not perceptibly changing and that climate change advocates are being alarmist. It also supports the effort to undermine the science by trying to highlight the apparent inconsistencies and failures of climate change theory.
Despite climate denier’s efforts, it appears that on Twitter at least climate advocacy is winning out. Lenoardo DiCaprio is the liberal counterpart to James Wood and commands almost ten times as many followers (https://twitter.com/LeoDiCaprio?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor) and frequently tweets on #ActonClimate. The general popularity of the hashtags advocating climate change also speaks to the victory of the supporters vs. deniers. Perhaps this is due to the fact climate change is an offensive, galvanizing issue demanding immediate action for the left, while for conservatives, it is only an issue to combat when the status quo is in jeopardy.