You might have heard about those inew news strikes that never happen. Or the fact that some islands in the world can only exist for a decade or so before being submerged by global warming, but they still exist half a century later. While global warming may be a threat, are we getting fake survival warnings to prepare ourselves when there is still time?
All major issues concerning individual nations like the 2016 Presidential election in US and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom or those issues that are of concern to the whole world like the issue of global warming and climate change are threatened by fake news which can lead to catastrophic results. While the subject of fake news has gained a wider audience following the 2016 US election, fake news has still had a worrisome impact on us.
Fake news is not a recent phenomenon and has existed for a long time but its impact has become more widespread with the spread of the internet and social media. The fake news phenomenon has been aided by the rapid expansion of the digital medium and its capacity to deliver any message across the globe at lightening fast speed. It leads to a situation where such fake news can’t be checked, verified or challenged before it is made available worldwide.
Scientists grapple with fake news. Scientists studying climate change are grappling with this phenomenon of fake news which is able to sow the seeds of confusion in the minds of both the general public whose support is necessary to implement changes to save the environment as well as the decision makers who have the responsibility of making decisions which even if painful are necessary to stop further environmental damage.
In such a scenario it is necessary that scientists step up their efforts for wider dissemination of correct and factual data so that people become more science literate and can appreciate facts as they are and are not swayed by misinformation campaigns and deliberately leaked fake news. World bodies like the United Nations believes that the 2030 sustainable development goals can be met only if scientific literature and discoveries get a wider audience.
The misinformation campaigns and deliberately leaked fake news and controversies have led to a situation where polls both in the US and UK show that even though a large majority of scientists agree to the fact that climate change phenomenon of the modern era is largely fueled by human activities, the general populace is not aware of such unanimity on the issue while many believe that it is still an unsettled issue. Such a large scale denial of climate change and its causes is a direct result of the failure of the scientific community to effectively challenge fake news about the issue.
A change of habits is needed. In their quest of wider dissemination of correct and factual data, scientists must change their long ingrained habit of sharing information among the scientific community as their prime objective and instead must develop the habit of sharing their information not only with the scientific community but with the general public also.
In their pursuit of disseminating scientific information scientists must use the help of latest technological tools so that they are able to develop effective means of two-way communication with the general public. The new interdisciplinary field of translational ecology can help scientists work towards changing environmental research into public policy.
Turning the current scenario into one where society understands and appreciates their point of view and is able to ascertain and understand the facts about climate change is essential if environmental issues are to receive widespread support across the world. One of the ways by which we can support the growth of scientific temper is to know what fake news is and trying to stop it from spreading.