What Twitter Can Teach Us About Climate Change Sentiment
The Twittersphere is a place for personal expression, where anyone can post, share, and respond to the things they care about. According to a new study that analyzed 1.5 million tweets, it’s also a great resource for spreading climate awareness. As this Pacific Standard article explains, Twitter conversations about climate tend to feature activists, rather than deniers. Twitter users also show a high level of agreement with scientific consensus on climate change, and tend to link climate change with natural disasters such as hurricanes. While climate skeptics do appear on Twitter, they prefer to use the hashtag #globalwarming rather than #climatechange, and their tweets are more likely to be negative, while #climatechange tweets are more positive.
Twitter has been a useful tool for ecoAmerica, helping us find and connect with like-minded climate leaders and spread the word about our mission. As with any other communication channel, it’s important to understand where and how to reach your audience, and what type of language or topics are likely to engage them.
By Madeleine Thomas, contributor to Pacific Standard Magazine
To study climate change, head to the Twittersphere.
Never underestimate the power of the 140-character tweet: When studied word-by-word, shades and particulars of human sentiment can be unpacked in just a line or two. That includes, it turns out, popular opinions on climate change, and the emotional impacts of global warming. According to new research, Twitter is a mighty tool when it comes to studying our rapidly changing planet.
Between 2008 and 2014, researchers at the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide in Australia gathered 1.5 million tweets at random, each containing the word “climate” at least once. Using a tool known as a Hedonometer, which generates a happiness score for a body of text, they analyzed how happy or sad major climate change events—including politically shaded debates, like the Keystone Pipeline—made Twitter users feel, based on the language displayed in their tweets.
“There’s such a general consensus in the scientific community that climate change is real, but then in so many other areas it’s kind of split, so we were curious to see how Twitter responded to the issue,” says Emily Cody, lead author of the study. “It’s not necessarily a place where only scientists or only politicians go to display their opinions. It’s somewhere everybody can display their opinions.”
Image credit: Joe Lazarus/Flickr