by Helena Horton

Environment reporter

January 16, 2024

from TheGuardian Website





Extinction Rebellion protesters

at YouTube's London office in 2019.

Recent denial videos on the platform attempt

to discredit climate solutions.

Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images



YouTube criticized for

amplifying lies about the climate

with disinformation videos

watched by young people...


A third of UK teenagers believe climate change is "exaggerated", a report has found, as YouTube videos promoting a new kind of climate denial aimed at young people proliferate on the platform.

Previously, most climate deniers pushed the belief that climate breakdown was not happening or, if it was, that humans were not causing it.


Now, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has found that most climate denial videos on YouTube push the idea that climate solutions do not work, climate science and the climate movement are unreliable, or that the effects of global heating are beneficial or harmless.

Researchers from the CCDH gathered a dataset of text transcripts from 12,058 climate-related YouTube videos posted by 96 channels over almost six years from 1 January 2018 to 30 September 2023.


They also included the results of a nationally representative survey conducted by polling company Survation which found 31% of UK respondents aged 13 to 17 agreed with the statement,

"Climate change and its effects are being purposefully over-exaggerated".

This rose to 37% of teenagers categorized as heavy users of social media, meaning they reported using any one platform for more than four hours a day.

The report published on Tuesday shows a shift from the "old denial" - that climate change is not happening or not anthropogenic - to the "new denial".

These new denial narratives that question the science and solutions for climate change constituted 35% of all climate denial on YouTube in 2018, but now represent the large majority (70%).


Over the same period, the share of old denial has dropped from 65% to 30% of total claims.

The report authors believe that this shift is because the scientific evidence is now more accepted and hard to dispute, so those aiming to win people over to climate denial and delay must discredit the solutions and people pushing for climate action.

Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the CCDH, said:

"Scientists have won the battle to inform the public about climate change and its causes, which is why those opposed to climate action have cynically switched focus to undermining confidence in solutions and in science itself."

This mentality has seeped into UK politics, with rightwing politicians having campaigned for years to persuade the public that net zero is unachievable and too expensive, and that technologies including electric cars and heat pumps do not work.


The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has said recently that climate solutions are too expensive and rowed back on net zero commitments.


Young people are particularly heavy users of YouTube - the Pew Research Center recently found 13- to 17-year-olds use YouTube more than any other social media platform, with 71% using it daily.


Examples highlighted by the report of channels which push these new denial messages include,

Ahmed added:

"Young people spend a huge amount of time on video-sharing platforms like YouTube.


These new forms of climate denial, which have proliferated rapidly over the last six years, are designed to confuse and weaken public support for climate action in the coming decades.


"It is hypocritical for social media companies to claim to be green but then monetize and amplify lies about the climate.


"It is time for digital platforms to put their money where their mouth is.


They should refuse to amplify or monetize cynical climate denial content that undermines faith in our collective capacity to solve humanity's most pressing challenge."


Guardian graphic.

Source: Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Note: 12,058 climate-related YouTube videos posted by 96 channels

included in the analysis, covering the period 1 Jan 2018 - 30 Sep 2023



YouTube and Google, which owns the video platform,

have been urged to stop promoting climate disinformation on their platforms...!

The report found that large brands and non-profits had paid-for adverts next to many of the widely viewed videos containing new denial messages.

Michael Khoo, a climate disinformation expert at Friends of the Earth, said:

"Big tech fuels the spread of denial that is stopping climate action.


We've pressured Google to stop supporting climate denial in the past, but they've done little. The New Climate Denial report shows a disturbing shift in the tactics used by bad actors to derail the action needed to avert further disaster.

"Platforms like YouTube have developed technology to monopolize young people's attention and shouldn't direct that towards climate denial.


All social media companies must stop amplifying and profiting off the climate denial that threatens action on the most pressing crisis of human history."

A YouTube spokesperson said:

"Our climate change policy prohibits ads from running on content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.


Debate or discussions of climate change topics, including around public policy or research, is allowed. However, when content crosses the line to climate change denial, we stop showing ads on those videos.


We also display information panels under relevant videos to provide additional information on climate change and context from third parties."




Well, 2023 didn't exactly go to plan, did it?

Here in the UK, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, had promised us a government of stability and competence - not forgetting professionalism, integrity and accountability - after the rollercoaster ride of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.


Remember Liz? These days she seems like a long forgotten comedy act. Instead, Sunak took us even further through the looking-glass into the Conservative psychodrama.

Elsewhere, the picture has been no better.


In the US, Donald Trump is now many people's favorite to become president again.


In Ukraine, the war has dragged on with no end in sight.


The danger of the rest of the world getting battle fatigue and losing interest all too apparent.


Then there is the war in the Middle East and not forgetting the climate crisis …

But a new year brings new hope.


There are elections in many countries, including the UK and the US. We have to believe in change. That something better is possible.


The Guardian will continue to cover events from all over the world and our reporting now feels especially important.