Using advanced social media monitoring tools, Synthesio has completed a comprehensive analysis of the conversations online about climate change. Read earlier blog posts here: Overview and Causes

This blog post will look specifically at some of the effects of climate change that we dig into in our 44-page report. We broke down the subtopics into six categories based on criteria set by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF); extreme weather, food, wildlife, forests, oceans, and freshwater. While these six areas cannot possibly encompass all of the social, political, economic, and environmental effects of global warming, we focus on highlighting where the conversations are the most intense and polarizing.

Extreme weather

Severe hurricanes and tropical storms have increased in intensity and frequency, in part due to climate change.

Hurricane Dorian reached a category 5, the most severe designation, in late August 2019 while over the Caribbean. The damage done reminded Americans of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

There was a considerable spike in conversations during late August and early September when querying for “hurricanes” and “storms,” undoubtedly due to the high visibility media reporting.

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Additionally, though the coverage of the hurricane began mainly on Twitter, our social media monitoring tools found something different. General news media picked up the highest share of media coverage at 24%.

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Food

With an increasing human population, there is a greater need for food, but there is less land on which to produce it. One of the results of unstable climate conditions is drought, which is perhaps the most severe affliction for agriculture in the American West and beyond. Thanks to hashtags online, concerned individuals and producers can connect in the same spaces. Below are the top 10 hashtags regarding climate change’s effect on food.

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Wildlife

Human beings have sped up the process of extinction with unsustainable use of natural resources and animal habitats. Activities such as farming, logging, poaching, fishing, and mining advance our society but harm the natural world terribly. Social listening tools reveal the most common words in posts about endangered wildlife. Words that stand out are “conservation,” “threatened,” “U.S. protection,” “federal,” and “Trump.”

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This word cloud is accurate considering posts by users outraged about the Trump administration’s pledge to roll back portions of the Endangered Species Act in the summer of 2019.

Forests

Forests are home to over 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity, most of which cannot live anywhere else. Each year, the amount of emissions released by cleared forested land is equivalent to driving 600 million cars. Growing demand for pasture land for cattle is one of the main reasons for these changes.

In August and September of 2019, the internet blew up over raging wildfires in the famed Amazon of South America. The growing intensity of fires all over the world in many different climates confirmed fears that climate change is exacerbating natural disasters, and fast. Our social media monitoring tools picked up on some keywords in association with the Amazon fires, showing that people are considering the disaster as yet another effect of climate change.

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It was also fascinating looking at the timeline of what platforms Amazon fire-related queries appeared on and when. The conversation began on Twitter and was quickly picked up by news media outlets. This consequence stands to reinforce the fact that social data matters.

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Oceans

Our oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth. However, human-made plastic fills the sea, which breaks down into tiny particles and never really goes away. The Great Pacific garbage patch is one example of the severe consequences of humankind’s reckless and growing plastic usage over the years. Out of millions of mentions about plastics found on our platform, about 41% came from Twitter users.

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Most people talking about plastics online are younger than 35. There is a jump in conversations occurring between people 18-25 years old. Younger people are generally more interested in sustainability and talk about it much more vocally online.

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We can also see from this heat map that plastic sustainability is genuinely a global topic of conversation.

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Freshwater

According to the WWF, 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water. Freshwater is a resource that we often take for granted. In California, there has been a long-lasting drought that has forced people to take action and act upon being more water conscious. We can see that the volume in conversation about freshwater has grown immensely in just six months.

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Who is driving the climate change conversation according to social media monitoring tools?

We took a closer look at active Twitter Users who start important online dialogues. From researchers and scientists to engaged politicians, these individuals with large followings are sure to provide more insight into what we want to know most about global warming. Let’s take a look:

Patricia Espinosa C.

Mark Ruffalo

  • @MarkRuffalo
  • I’m a husband, father, actor, director, and a climate change advocate with an eye on a better, brighter, cleaner, more hopeful future for all of us.
  • 6.2M followers

Naomi Klein

  • @NaomiAKlein
  • The Shock Doctrine. This Changes Everything. No Is Not Enough. Now… On 🔥. Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers U
  • 567.2K followers

Justin Gillis

  • @JustinHGillis
  • Writing book on energy transition. Columnist for The New York Times, and former lead writer on climate science. Trying to be woke but need more coffee. 🏳️‍🌈
  • 15.9K followers

Brent Toderian

  • @BrentToderian
  • City planner + urbanist at @TODUrbanWORKS. Former Vancouver chief planner. Past/founding @CanUrbanism President. @FastCompany writer. Speaker, doer, city-maker.
  • 68.5K followers

Mark Tercek

  • @MarkTercek
  • Advise on environmental & org strategies. CEO of TNC (2008-19), Partner at Goldman Sachs (1984-08). Author of “Nature’s Fortune.” Family, yoga, aikido man.
  • 20.9K followers

Leonardo DiCaprio

Brad Plumer

Erik Solheim

  • @ErikSolheim
  • Join the fight for a green future! I work with World Resource Institute, Green Belt and Road, Plastic REVolution, Treelion, April/RGE, NOREF, NorwegianGreens.
  • 96.6K followers

Al Gore

Mark Lynas

  • @Mark_Lynas
  • Environment/science writer. Books: ‘High Tide’, ‘Six Degrees’, ‘The God Species’, ‘Seeds of Science: How we got it so wrong on GMOs’. ‘Six Degrees 2’ in process
  • 24.4K followers

Elizabeth May

  • @ElizabethMay
  • Leader of the @CanadianGreens, Saanich-Gulf Islands, activist, author & mother. Tweets are Elizabeth’s. En français – @MayElizabeth
  • 333.5K followers

Prof. Jason Box

  • @climate_ice
  • ice climatologist at Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, contemplating Greenland, Arctic and global climate issues. Views here my own. 🙂
  • 17.6K followers

Damian Carrington

  • @dpcarrington
  • I’m Environment Editor at the Guardian – DMs open
  • 54.2K followers

Annie Leonard

  • @AnnieMLeonard
  • Executive Director of @GreenpeaceUSA. Creator of the @StoryOfStuff video, book & org. Waste expert. Book lover. Mom. Seattle native.
  • 11K followers

Caroline Lucas

  • @CarolineLucas
  • Green party candidate for Brighton Pavilion, former leader and co-leader of @TheGreenParty, Mum<
  • 434.5K followers

George Monbiot

  • @GeorgeMonbiot
  • “I love not man the less, but Nature more.”
  • 313.5K followers

Leo Hickman

  • @LeoHickman
  • Director/editor of @CarbonBrief. Served 16 years at the Guardian. Author of A Life Stripped Bare, The Final Call, Will Jellyfish Rule the World?…
  • 24.1K followers

Catherine McKenna

  • @cathmckenna
  • Mom. Swimmer. MP for Ottawa Centre/Députée d’Ottawa-Centre. Minister of Environment and Climate Change/Ministre de l’Environnement et Changement climatique.
  • 130.4K followers

Heidi Cullen

  • @HeidiCullen
  • Communications Director @MBARI_News & climate scientist. Climate & ocean science, extreme weather attribution, #scicomm. Lover of Labs. All tweets my own.
  • 21.7K followers

Mike Hudema

  • @MikeHudema
  • #Climate Campaigner focusing on addressing the #climate crisis, building #greenjobs & a #GreenNewDeal. Let’s join together and change the world!
  • 112.7K followers

Mark Z. Jacobson

  • @MZJacobson
  • Prof-Civil & Env Engineering;  Director-Atmos/Energy Program; Research-climate, air pollution, clean/renewable energy; Cofounder-Solutions Project/100% Movement
  • 23.2K followers

Kumi Naidoo

  • @KumiNaidoo
  • @Amnesty Secretary General | Activist | Speaking truth to power
  • 51.9K followers

Achim Steiner

  • @ASteiner
  • Administrator – United Nations Development Programme @UNDP. Former Director @OxMartinSchool/ Oxford University, UN Under Sec-Gen & ED @UNEP
  • 45.3K followers

Prof. Katherine Hayhoe

  • @KHayhoe
  • Not suspicious, just Canadian. Climate scientist, @TTUCSC director, poli sci prof, knitter, pastor’s wife, mom. TIME100 + Fortune50. First in line for cloning.
  • 132.2K followers

Kate Shepphard

  • @kate_sheppherd
  • Senior enterprise editor @HuffPost, prof @UNCHussman, left shark, mom. PGP key: 514B 4D5A 76AF F2EA D4EF DC24 4453 6DD0 D00D 31F4
  • 59.6K followers

Twila Moon

  • @twilamoon
  • Cryosphere, climate, #scicomm. Scientist at National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado.
  • 2,353 followers

Dr. Jacqueline Gill

  • @JacquelineGill
  • Ice Age ecologist in a warming world. Associate Professor at @UMaine’s Climate Change Institute. Host of @ourwarmregards. #TeamMuskOx
  • 60.9K followers

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

  • @AyanaEliza
  • Marine biologist, policy nerd, founder @OceanCollectiv & @UrbanOceanLab, Brooklyn native. Madly in love with nature and solutions for our climate crisis. 🌎🔥‼️
  • 27.5K followers

Michael E. Mann

  • @MichaelEMann
  • Climate Scientist, Professor & Director of the Penn State ESSC; Author of Dire Predictions, The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars, and The Madhouse Effect

 

Want to learn more about how we surfaced these insights? See our tool in action.