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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Commun. | doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2019.00036

Science and Environmental Communication via Online Video: Strategically Distorted Communications on Climate Change and Climate Engineering on YouTube

  • 1Chair of Technology and Society - Human Technology Center, RWTH Aachen Universität, Germany

The online video-sharing website YouTube is extremely popular globally, also as a tool for information on science and environmental topics. However, only little is known about what kind of information users find when they are searching for information about climate science, climate change and climate engineering on YouTube. This contribution presents results from an exploratory research project that investigates whether videos found on YouTube adhere to or challenge scientific consensus views. Ten search terms were employed to search for and analyze 200 videos about climate and climate modification topics, which are contested topics in online media. The online anonymization tool Tor has been used for the randomization of the sample and to avoid personalization of the results. A heuristic qualitative classification tool was set up to categorize the videos in the sample. 89 videos of the 200 videos in the sample are supporting scientific consensus views about anthropogenic climate change, and climate scientists are discussing climate topics with deniers of climate change in 4 videos in the sample. Unexpectedly, the majority of the videos in the sample (107 videos) supports worldviews that are opposing scientific consensus views: 16 videos deny climate change and 91 videos in the sample propagate straightforward conspiracy theories about climate engineering and climate change. Videos supporting the scientific mainstream view received only slightly more views (16,941,949 views in total) than those opposing the mainstream scientific position (16,939,655 views in total). Consequences for the public communication of climate change and climate engineering are discussed in the second part of the article. The research presented in this contribution is particularly interested in finding out more about strategically distorted communications about climate change and climate engineering in online environments and in critically analyzing them.

Keywords: Science Communication, Environmental Communication, youtube, Online video, Climate Change, climate engineering, Geoengineering, conspiracy

Received: 31 Dec 2018; Accepted: 04 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Andrea M. Feldpausch-Parker, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, United States

Reviewed by:

Bruno Takahashi, Michigan State University, United States
Sara K. Yeo, The University of Utah, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Allgaier. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Joachim Allgaier, RWTH Aachen Universität, Chair of Technology and Society - Human Technology Center, Aachen, 52056, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany,