The Devil’s Advice: Climate Change Disinformation and How to Fight It

Climate change is one of the most severe problems humanity faces. It is both an ideological and a cognitive predicament, conditions that inevitably lead to misinformation spreading and contribute to the success of disinformation CAMPAIGNS.

And I maintain that some individuals’ willingness to spread misinformation will bring the species as close to hell on earth as possible. 

The human brain doesn’t appear suited to understand big numbers. Large scales, like deep time, more precisely the time frame of evolutionary processes, are difficult for many people to grasp. And this, in turn, leads to denial or rejection of these processes, despite the vast amounts of evidence for them. 

The Devil Unbound: Climate change misinformation and how to fight it
Photo by Francesco Ungaro
The age of the earth and its size are confusing to most people because of the large-scale numbers that represent them. 

The first point is often contentious with religious people who need to reconcile their understanding of the world with their scriptures. And the latter point is a critical error flat-earth-nuts make when thinking about the earth’s shape. The planet is too large for them to see its form correctly from the limited human vantage point. 

With climate change, the scale of the emissions pumped into the air are too large for people to understand, and the changes they cause to the atmosphere are too gradual for human senses to notice. 

The numbers’ problem or the cognitive issue can be addressed by looking at it from a different angle. 

In his article, A Small Problem Wit Big Numbers, Shreyas Kamath of Towards Data Science offers the following solution. 

For example, we know that a million, a billion and a trillion are massive numbers — but most people have a hard time understanding how significant the difference is between them.

It’s a little easier to understand this in terms of time.

1 million seconds is 11 and 1/2 days

1 billion seconds is 31 and 3/4 years

1 trillion seconds is 31,710 years

Unless you are one of those people that math textbooks talk about — the kind that purchases hundreds of watermelons so that kids can practice their algebra — you aren’t dealing with big numbers daily.

This explication offers a different, more direct way to look at large numbers and understand their significance. Humans are more familiar with money and regular time scales like months and years than they are with the precise value of a metric ton. 

A comparison to illustrate the earth’s shape is to look at a ball bearing under a microscope, an exercise that reveals that it has cracks and that its surface isn’t as smooth as it might look to you because of its size in relationship to a human’s.  This should help demonstrate, at least theoretically, that the earth is too big for humans to see its curvature.

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Whilst the inability to understand large numbers seems like a biological limitation of the human brain, the ideological component of this problem is far more concerning. 

Belief is a powerful motivator of behaviour. Political and religious affiliations determine what people accept as truth, and more critical to the problem of climate change, how they react to what happens around them. 

Pew research from 2015 shows specific numbers on Religion and Views on Climate and Energy Issues. 

There are also biblical arguments against climate change proposing that God’s omnipotence makes global warming impossible. The more fundamentalist of religious contentions point out that if climate change is happening, it must be part of God’s plan, and trying to stop it is a sinful endeavour. 

The old man always delighted in the manipulation of the people who love him. 

Politically, libertarian ideals of free, unregulated markets are in express opposition to corporate regulations. And the conservative persuasions seem to be more interested in the financial aspects of capitalism than they are in their children’s future. 

For the ideological problem Stephan Lewandowsky, of the School of Psychological Science at the University of Bristol and the University of Western Australia offers the following set of solutions. 

“The existing literature on how to communicate climate change and dispel misinformation converges on several conclusions: First, providing information about climate change, in particular explanations of why it occurs, can enhance people’s acceptance of science. Second, highlighting the scientific consensus can be an effective means to counter misinformation and raise public acceptance. Third, culturally aligned messages and messengers are more likely to be successful. Finally, climate misinformation is best defanged, through a process known as inoculation, before it is encountered, although debunking techniques can also be successful.”

From Climate Change Misinformation and How to Combat it.

The Devil Unbound: Money drives behaviour

Climate change, global warming, whatever you want to call it, is a true and present threat to the planet. A threat that is made more convincing by the baseness of man, who wants what he wants now, and quite often will ignore the consequences of getting it. 

It is not easy to attempt to change peoples’ minds about complex issues, but I submit that it is a worthwhile exercise. I am inclined towards Lewandowsky’s proposition of inoculation – make them accept the good ideas the same way they learned the bad ones. 

Earth is my favourite playground, and if you don’t act now, your descendants will not have the privilege to do the nasty and wonderful things that humans do in this planet. 

The Devil Unbound: Climate change is a threat to the planet
Photo by Pixabay

— A Concerned Devil


  1. People only see and address problems that bear a personal touch. Though we all inhabit Earth, our primary homes are the houses and towns or cities we live in. As long as there’s not too much amiss there, then who cares about the bigger stuff.
    I think redundant thinking and it’s not our problem attitude is a huge concern in today’s day and age. 🙂

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