Climate disinformation concerns widespread among UK public

19th June 2024

Nine in 10 UK adults do not fully trust brands to accurately portray their climate commitments or follow the science all the time, a new survey has uncovered.

After polling over 1,000 adults, the researchers found that 45% would stop supporting a brand known to fund climate disinformation, with 40% identifying social media as the primary source of deception.

The research also reveals widespread prevalence of false narratives in the UK, with 40% believing the country can’t afford net-zero emissions by 2050 – up from 25% in 2022 – while 44% think the energy grid cannot handle a further increase in electric vehicles.

Respondents aged 55 and over were more likely to believe these false narratives, while younger people aged 18-34 were less likely.

Furthermore, the survey found that only 56% of the public understand the phrase ‘net zero’ and the concept of ‘greenhouse gas emissions’, leaving 44% vulnerable to climate disinformation.

Jake Dubbins, co-founder of the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN), which commissioned the research in partnership with advertising agency Dentsu, said that brands must actively distance themselves from disinformation.

“This research shows that misconceptions about climate change are widespread, and the advertising and media industries must recognise their role in either perpetuating or addressing these misconceptions,” he continued.

“Businesses need to recognise that association with climate disinformation not only undermines their credibility and reputation but also jeopardises their long-term viability in a world increasingly focused on sustainability.”

Despite widespread prevalence of false narratives, the research found a high level of concern over the impacts of climate change, with 69% of the public believing it is affecting the global economy, 65% thinking it is impacting the UK economy, and 67% saying it is impacting the cost of living.

However, only 50% of respondents believe that the “climate is changing, mainly caused by humans”, which is down from 54% in 2022.

Furthermore, just 56% feel they understand specific climate change concepts, highlighting the need for improved communication and education.

“When it comes to climate crisis communication, there is a need to create a responsible, evidence-informed dialogue which resonates with people,” said Pamela Stathaki, head of sustainability for the UK and EMEA at Dentsu.

“This demonstrates more than ever the power of industry bodies like CAN to convene key players across the industry including the platforms to both recognise the harms of mis/disinformation and uphold standards.”

Read more about climate disinformation in our latest issue of Transform here: Fake news - IEMA

Image credit: Shutterstock


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