APA 7: TWs Editor & ChatGPT. (2023, November 5). Social Media Users Assert Mother Nature’s Superiority in Climate Solutions. PerEXP Teamworks. [News Link]
In a study involving the analysis of 1.5 million posts on X (Formerly known as Twitter), conducted with the aid of cutting-edge artificial intelligence language models, researchers identified instances of “Disgust” and “Fear” in connection with the concept of “geoengineering.” This term typically encompasses unconventional technologies like aerosol spraying in the atmosphere or deploying solar space sails.
Conversely, discussions revolving around nature-based initiatives aimed at preserving carbon-sequestering ecosystems, such as rainforests, underwater kelp forests, and peat bogs, were found to elicit more favorable sentiments, including expressions of “Joy.” These findings were derived from a collaborative study by researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Mercator Research Institute, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and Boston University.
Co-author and Assistant Professor Ramit Debnath, who serves as a Cambridge Zero Fellow at the University of Cambridge, emphasized that social media serves as a valuable avenue for accessing the vast reservoir of thoughts and emotions openly shared by individuals in public discussions concerning emerging technologies. Ramit said: “Governments and global organizations need to consider how the voting public will engage with proposed solutions of climate action.”
Forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body responsible for evaluating climate science, suggest that the conventional approach of steadily reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide and methane, may no longer suffice to restrain global warming to a critical threshold of less than 2 degrees Celsius. This threshold signifies a tipping point where the escalation of catastrophic weather phenomena like severe heatwaves, storms, droughts, and floods becomes increasingly likely.
According to the IPCC, addressing climate change involves more than the gradual reduction of global emissions resulting from the use of fossil fuels for various purposes, including power generation, industrial processes, residential heating, transportation, and food production. To avert further warming, humanity must also engage in proactive “Geoengineering” efforts, which may encompass actions like removing greenhouse gases that trap solar energy or reflecting excess sunlight away from the Earth.
The research involved the examination of user posts on X from 2006 to 2021, addressing a spectrum of 20 emerging climate technologies. These technologies ranged from ecosystem restoration and afforestation to more unconventional strategies such as altering cloud formation and managing solar radiation, as well as general discussions related to “Geoengineering.”
Traditional survey methods often struggle to accurately measure public sentiment regarding these technologies. Consequently, the study’s authors found that sifting through X posts offers a valuable approach for capturing candid and unfiltered public opinions on the matter.
Finn Müller-Hansen, a researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and the lead author of the study, emphasized that individuals who lack familiarity with these issues may be significantly swayed by the specific phrasing and framing of questions when assessing public opinion.
Müller-Hansen emphasized the adoption of an alternative approach, highlighting their interest in understanding how people naturally interact with these topics without being prompted or surveyed.
Of the nearly 800,000 posts on X that involved general discussions on “Geoengineering,” it was observed that negative sentiments were more prevalent, appearing in 30% of all tweets, while positive sentiments were relatively less common at just 6%.
Yet, upon delving into the specific viewpoints regarding various solutions, the researchers discovered a more favorable reception for all strategies related to greenhouse gas removal, with 24% expressing positive sentiments and 14% negative sentiments. In contrast, technologies related to solar manipulation were met with less enthusiasm, garnering only 9% positive sentiments and 24% negative sentiments.
This pattern becomes more pronounced when the removal methods are viewed as “Natural,” with the highest level of approval being observed for tree-planting solutions, often referred to as “Afforestation.”
In their paper’s conclusion, the authors suggest refraining from the utilization of the frequently misunderstood term “Geoengineering,” which encompasses a broad spectrum of climate change mitigation endeavors, spanning from technological interventions to natural solutions.
Debnath stated that the study has revealed the specific areas of public concern or apprehension regarding ‘Geoengineering’ solutions: “It’s up to scientists and policymakers to either clear up these concerns and try to bring people around, or listen to the public, who at this moment are more supportive of nature-based solutions.”
- NEWSPAPER University of Cambridge. (2023, November 4). Mother Nature knows best when it comes to climate solutions, social media users say. Phys.org. [Phys.org]
- JOURNAL Müller-Hansen, F., Repke, T., Baum, C. M., Brutschin, E., Callaghan, M., Debnath, R., Lamb, W. F., Low, S., Lück, S., Roberts, C., Sovacool, B. K., & Minx, J. (2023). Attention, sentiments and emotions towards emerging climate technologies on Twitter. Global Environmental Change, 83, 102765. [Global Environmental Change]