Welcome back to COP, LOOK, LISTEN. The spotlight on COP is usually most intense during the opening and closing days of the summit. At these times, more people may encounter climate content ‘in the wild’ and be curious to learn more. Search engines appear a neutral way to find relevant information, especially when compared to highly curated social media feeds.
Unfortunately, search engine results can be manipulated. CAAD and Roots searched for key climate terms during COP28 and found fossil fuel greenwashing ads on Google and Bing. In some cases, climate misinformation also appeared organically (non-advertised) in search results. This means that right now, as COP draws to a close, curious members of the public are likely being served similar content. They may assume it’s the most relevant or credible material out there. After all, isn’t that what search engines are for?
We spoke to Khawla, one of the Roots COP28 Youth Delegation, about this issue. She said:
”The way that search engines are amplifying greenwashing is simply inexcusable. As both an educator and researcher, I’m deeply concerned by the tangible impact this is having on my students’ work. It’s disheartening but not surprising to witness the championing of false solutions in their assignments, fed by fossil fuel giants via Google’s search results.”
Climate misinformation researcher Sean Buchan said:
“This analysis demonstrates that fossil fuel companies continue to invest heavily in long-term influence campaigns. What’s more shocking is they are clearly attempting to control the narrative around important climate terms. This is the next step in a decades-long effort from the fossil fuel industry, which has ranged from outright climate denial, to doubt over climate solutions, to today’s greenwashing findings.”
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