Echo Chambers of Denial: Explaining User Comments on Climate Change

Walter, Stefanie; Brüggemann, Michael; Engesser, Sven
Environmental Communication

Although there is a broad consensus among scientists and journalists about the existence of anthropogenic climate change as a global problem, some segments of the population remain doubtful about the human impact on it. The internet provides citizens with opportunities to publicly voice their doubts and user comment sections of online media are a popular form of user-generated content. This study identifies factors that foster comments that are sceptical or supportive of basic assumptions of anthropogenic climate change, drawing on online news in the US, the UK, Germany, India, and Switzerland. The results show that users adapt to the dominant opinion within the respective media outlet: user comment sections serve as echo chambers rather than as corrective mechanisms. Climate change denial is more visible in user comment sections in countries where the climate change debate reflects the scientific consensus on climate change and user comments create niches of denial.