The Circulation of Climate Change Denial Online: Rhetorical and Networking Strategies on Facebook

Bloomfield, Emma Frances; Tillery, Denise
Environmental Communication

This study uses a topical, rhetorical approach to analyze how climate change denial circulates online through the 25 most popular posts on the Watts Up With That and the Global Warming Policy Forum Facebook pages. These groups adopt the appearance of credibility through reposting and hyperlinking, thus establishing a supportive, networked space among other skeptical sites, while distancing readers from original sources of scientific information. Visitors use a variety of rhetorical strategies to echo posts’ main themes and to discredit alternative viewpoints. Differences between the topoi and rhetorical strategies of WUWT and the GWPF show that the climate change denial community is multifaceted and makes use of social media affordances to craft the appearance of legitimacy. This project contributes to our knowledge of how scientific information is co-opted, manipulated, and circulated in online spaces and how online features shape environmental discourse practices.