Conspiracy spillovers and geoengineering
Geoengineering techniques such as solar radiation management (SRM) could be part of a future technology portfolio to limit global temperature change. However, there is public opposition to research and deployment of SRM technologies. We use 814,924 English-language tweets containing #geoengineering globally over 13 years (2009–2021) to explore public emotions, perceptions, and attitudes toward SRM using natural language processing, deep learning, and network analysis. We find that specific conspiracy theories influence public reactions toward geoengineering, especially regarding "chemtrails" (whereby airplanes allegedly spray poison or modify weather through contrails). Furthermore, conspiracies tend to spillover, shaping regional debates in the UK, USA, India, and Sweden and connecting with broader political considerations. We also find that positive emotions rise on both the global and country scales following events related to SRM governance, and negative and neutral emotions increase following SRM projects and announcements of experiments. Finally, we also find that online toxicity shapes the breadth of spillover effects, further influencing anti-SRM views.
© 2023 The Author(s). Under a Creative Commons license - Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) R.D. gratefully acknowledges support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [OPP1144], Cambridge Centre for Climate Repair, CambridgeZero, Laudes Foundation and Quadrature Climate Foundation, and the Google Cloud Climate Innovation Challenge Award. Caltech's Resnick Sustainability Institute supports R.M.A.'s work. We thank Twitter for granting access to their v2API. We also thank Google Jigsaw for granting access to their Perspective API via the Google Cloud Platform. BKS, FMH and TR acknowledge funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the European Research Council (ERC) Grant Agreement No. 951542-GENIE-ERC-2020-SyG, "GeoEngineering and NegatIve Emissions pathways in Europe" (GENIE). The content of this deliverable does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed herein lies entirely with the author(s). Author contribution. R.D. and S.D.F. conceived the study. R.D., S.D.F., and R.M.A. developed the analytical framework. R.D. developed the results, vizualisations and led the manuscript preparation. All authors interpreted the results, wrote and reviewed the manuscript. Inclusion and diversity. One or more of the authors of this paper self-identifies as an underrepresented ethnic minority in their field of research or within their geographical location. One or more of the authors of this paper received support from a program designed to increase minority representation in their field of research. We avoided "helicopter science" practices by including the participating local contributors from the region where we conducted the research as authors on the paper. While citing references scientifically relevant for this work, we also actively worked to promote gender balance in our reference list. We support inclusive, diverse, and equitable conduct of research. Data and code availability: • All data have been deposited at Mendeley Data and are publicly available as of publication. DOI is listed in the key resources table. Any additional information required to reanalyze the data reported in this paper is available from the lead contact upon request. • All codes have been deposited at GitHub and are publicly available as of the publication date. DOI is listed in the key resources table. Any additional information required to reanalyze the data reported in this paper is available from the lead contact upon request. The authors declare no competing interests.
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