The majority of YouTube videos about the climate crisis oppose the scientific consensus and “hijack” technical terms to make them appear credible, a new study has found. Researchers have warned that users searching the video site to learn about climate science may be exposed to content that goes against mainstream scientific belief.
Dr Joachim Allgaier of RWTH Aachen University in Germany analysed 200 YouTube videos to see if they adhered to or challenged the scientific consensus. To do so, he chose 10 search terms:
- Climate change
- Climate engineering
- Climate hacking
- Climate manipulation
- Climate modification
- Climate science
- Global warming
The videos were then assessed to judge how closely they adhered to the scientific consensus, as represented by the findings of reports by UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 2013 onwards.
These concluded that humans have been the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s. However, Allgaier found that the message of 120 of the top 200 search results went against this view.
To avoid personalised results, Allgaier used the anonymisation tool Tor, which hides a computer’s IP address and means YouTube treats each search as coming from a different user.
The results for the search terms climate, climate change, climate science and global warming mostly reflected the scientific consensus view. Allgaier said this was because many contained excerpts from TV news programmes or documentaries.
The same could not be said for the results of searches related to chemtrails, climate engineering, climate hacking, climate manipulation, climate modification and geoengineering. Very few of these videos explained the scientific rationale behind their ideas, Allgaier said.