Pandemic spurs pushback against climate change regulations

Rebekah Robinson

 

This summer, we’ve been inundated with news of devastating heatwave after heatwave, unprecedented droughts, and raging wildfires. We’ve also been inundated with news and opinion on how European climate policies have left the continent in a position where it is over-reliant on Russian oil and gas to meet its energy needs. 

It got me thinking about how conversations around climate change and those that deny or minimize its effect have popped up in the media.

According to Erin McAweeney, Director of Analysis at Graphika, a network analysis firm, climate conspiracists have latched onto the global attention on climate issues to push their anti-regulation agenda. 

For instance, Dutch farmers continue to protest over regulations that require cuts to nitrogen emissions. The farmers argue that the policy will adversely impact the Netherlands’ agricultural industry by limiting food production. Right-wing media have picked up on these protests to claim that green policies are disrupting livelihoods. Some far-right leaders, like Marine Le Pen in France and former U.S. President Donald Trump, have voiced support for the Dutch farmers’ cause, with Trump even going as far as to describe the situation as “climate tyranny.” 

McAweeney told me that her firm had “noted an uptick in content related to the ‘Great Reset’ throughout covid, and it appears to have converged with these longstanding climate conspiracy theories about governments using these policies for authoritarian control.”

The Netherlands is not the only place reeling from farmers protesting green regulations. Earlier this month, Sri Lankans faced economic devastation, spilling out on the streets in the tens of thousands to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign. His policy to ban synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, some analysts said, was disastrous, leading to food insecurity and poverty. Climate change deniers have seized on this analysis to argue that Rajapaksa was acting to appease international green lobbies.

Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund published a paper about how Covid-19 has impacted people’s reaction to climate change and policies meant to mitigate its effects. The researchers found that people were “significantly less likely to support green policies when faced with job income loss during the pandemic.” It highlights how economic precarity, political panic, and the need to protect livelihoods works to reduce popular support for climate recovery policies.

I asked McAweeney where she sees the future of climate and covid conspiracies going, and she told me that they would “continue to converge under the widening umbrella of the Great Reset, ‘anti-globalist’ narrative,” especially in the face of newly proposed sustainable policies meant to curb climate change. 

IN GLOBAL NEWS

A landslide win for Japan’s ruling coalition in the recent upper house election has left some scientists concerned that their research could be used in military applications. Following the assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, his party has said it will pursue his vision for Japan by investing in technological research and development, increasing defense spending and eventually rebuilding a muscular and evident Japanese military presence. 

While the war continues in Ukraine and China becomes an ever more assertive super power, Japanese scientists have expressed their unease at their government’s growing attachment and investments in dual-use technologies and research that has obvious if unstated military implications. Coda has previously covered how China weaponizes scientific research to suit geopolitical narratives, particularly the undermining of Japan. 

But for Japanese scientists, long used to Japanese pacifism, there are questions to be answered about dual-use technologies and whether the government will impose data sharing restrictions in the name of national security that make it more difficult to collaborate on research. 

Covid vaccines were linked to new stats on the low number of live births in Germany. The claims shared across Twitter are the latest example of covid vaccine misinformation linked to infertility. The actual data from the Federal Statistical Office does indeed show that the number of live births has decreased in the first quarter of 2022 compared to previous years. But some Twitter users have attributed the low numbers to the campaign to vaccinate young adults. Research continues to indicate that vaccines do not adversely affect fertility. Take a look at Coda’s additional reporting on the power of infertility myths.

YouTube cracks down on abortion-related misinformation. The video platform plans to remove content from its site that promotes attempting at-home abortions or false claims about abortion safety. YouTube continues to target medical misinformation, especially since the Supreme Court decided to roll back its decision on Roe v. Wade. Earlier this month, our Authoritarian Tech newsletter dove into Meta’s content moderation policies around abortion.

WHAT WE’RE READING: 

Immigrant communities were hit particularly hard during the pandemic as many carried out essential work yet were excluded from federal relief plans. A new report from the Migration Policy Institute digs into strategies used by two seemingly disparate communities in Minnesota and Texas that incorporated immigrant families in crisis planning. One key takeaway from their research is to empower culturally competent and trusted volunteers that can help curb misinformation in the community. The researchers hope that their approach can serve as a model for future emergency plans.

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