Thursday, December 9, 2021

g-f(2)717 THE BIG PICTURE OF THE DIGITAL AGE (12/9/2021), WaPo, New artificial intelligence tool detects most common climate falsehoods

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"g-f" fishing of golden knowledge (GK) of the fabulous treasure of the digital age, Artificial Intelligence, Climate Falsehoods (12/9/2021) 

OPPORTUNITY, The Washington Post

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After nearly five years of development and tweaking, John Cook and his colleagues debuted their project: a machine-learning algorithm that can detect climate misinformation on the Web.
  • Using the machine-learning algorithm, John Cook and his colleagues conducted the largest content analysis of climate contrarian claims to date. The team analyzed more than 250,000 documents from 1998 to 2020 from 20 highly visited, mostly U.S.-based conservative think tanks and 33 central contrarian blogs — outlets the study called “key cogs in the so-called climate change ‘denial machine.’ ”
  • The team found that in recent years, contrarian outlets mainly countered climate information pertaining to science/scientists and solutions.

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Kasha Patel

Editor and writer focusing on weather, climate change and the environment.

Education: Wake Forest University, BS in Chemistry; Boston University, MS in Science Journalism

Kasha Patel is the deputy weather editor for the Capital Weather Gang at The Washington Post, covering weather, climate change and the environment. Before joining The Post, she produced news stories, videos and features about the Earth sciences, climate change and satellite research for NASA. She specialized in topics at the intersection of the environment and public health, such as tracking infectious diseases from space. Patel also has significant on-screen experience, appearing on the Weather Channel and BBC, among others. She hosted an award-winning miniseries on NASA TV highlighting Earth science research in the field. She was previously the host of the Undark science magazine's podcast.

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Lessons learned, WaPo

  • Yet Kotcher said the public is divided on whether the issue should be a priority for the president and Congress.
  • “There’s been huge increases among Democrats, both liberal and moderate ones, over the last few years,” said Kotcher, who also publishes reports investigating climate change along with political ideology. He said there has been a slight increase in support from more moderate Republicans, but trends have essentially flatlined for conservative Republicans, who constitute a relatively larger proportion of the GOP.

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Lessons learned, WaPo

And Kotcher said it is safe to say climate misinformation is playing a part in the differences of opinion. But not all climate misinformation is the same or is disseminated in the same quantity, the recent study showed.
  • For instance, some may say the science is unreliable and there is no consensus, even though 99.9 percent of scientists agree that human activity is altering our climate. Others may say the movement is unreliable — environmentalists and media are alarmists; and climate scientists are biased, incompetent or lying. For solutions, common claims were that climate policies are harmful and clean energy won’t work.
  • The results were surprising to Cook, who has spent the past 15 years addressing science myths — it’s not happening, it’s not us and it’s not real. His previous research focused on how to counter misinformation about the greenhouse effect or the carbon cycle. While those may have been more common targets for contrarian outlets in the early 2000s, the focus has shifted.
  • He is also working on integrating the machine-learning algorithm into a browser extension, initially conceived by his students, that could detect misinformation and annotate a webpage in real time.
  • “Climate is such a holistic issue. It affects every aspect of our lives, so we don’t have to go down the science route. I don’t think that’s necessarily going to be the most effective way to … get people caring about the issue,” said Cook. “There is no one magic bullet, and I think we need to pursue multiple avenues from multiple messages to multiple audiences.”

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