2013-03-01

Co.Exist

Al Gore Wants You To Drop A Dose Of Climate Change Reality On Internet Commenters

But does mindlessly repeating the same talking points really have any effect?

There will always be people who ignore climate science, no matter how concrete it may be. Nevertheless, Arnold Worldwide and Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project are hoping to give the public tools to fight climate change deniers in the environment where they thrive: the Internet. Reality Drop, a social media tool launched by Al Gore this week at TED, aims to give visitors talking points that they can share in the comments section of popular online climate change stories.

One of the top stories on Reality Drop right now is a piece in BusinessWeek discussing how a tax on carbon emissions in the U.S. would be greater than any resulting revenue gain. Reality Drop visitors are encouraged to "drop reality" by rallying their social networks around the story, deciding whether it’s fact or fiction, and using pre-packaged talking points to win the argument in the comments section.

The talking point for the BusinessWeek piece: "The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change," supplied along with a link to Reality Drop’s page about cutting carbon emissions (the site catalogs over 100 climate myths and rebuttals, provided in partnership with Skeptical Science). The whole Reality Drop site is gamified, so every action taken gives users points that can be used to get badges, unlock levels, and gain in rank.

As you can see in the comments sectionof the Businessweek article, Reality Drop users are eagerly copying and pasting the supplied talking point. The result: It looks like a bunch of spammers took over the comments. Out of 9 comments (at the time of writing), five say, "The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change."

Is gathering people en masse to parrot talking points really effective? If a bunch of climate deniers did the same thing, it’s doubtful that Reality Drop proponents would let it sway them. And if those climate deniers pasted in the same quote over and over, on-the-fence readers probably wouldn’t pay attention either. It would make a difference if Reality Drop users spent a couple minutes writing original comments, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. The site is still young, of course, so things could change.

The climate change discussion is incredibly important, and incorrect statements abound. Reality Drop’s database of myths and popular news stories provides the tools that people need to respond intelligently. These tools just need to be used wisely.

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5 Comments

  • Noah_Scape

    Yes, people should be doing their own homework and creating their own list and NOT calling them "talking points" because that is a Big Brother/BushEra/Conservative thang. [yes, thang].

      When we take other people's word for it, or use other people's words for it, we were likely educated in the new paradigm of memorizing facts instead of learning how to think. I can come up with my own equations, thank you very much - no need to memorize yours and mindlessly tap them into my calculator.

      With climate change - oh oh... What do we have to go on except "other people's data on average global temperatures"?? Local observations are not an indicator of global changes. Fortunately, from several different sources we have Inuit saying the Arctic is changing suddenly which concurs with three different groups of scientists saying their temperature readings are showing warming. And then consistently warmer local changes over several years gives us a pretty good indication.

     Is the ocean really acidifying? Who would lie about that? CO2 in the water has to match CO2 in the air - go read about that!!

    Hey "Me, Me, Mine" - really? You really still denying?? Are you an oilman, being paid by the denial forces, or just so afraid of change that you have to deny it?

  • Kiwiiano

    I suspect that as long as the Denier's pay packets depends on them following the usual deluded script, it will be hard for the Concerned Citizens who are primarily worried about their grandchildren to make the impact needed for the Fence Sitters. Next week always trumps next generation.

  • mememine

    Who's the fear mongering neocon again here?
    The only crisis you REMAINING believers need to worry about is your grandkids asking why grandpa and grandma bullied billions of helpless children with their childish CO2 death threats.
    YOU remaining believers are a living Reefer Madness.
    Nice job girls.

  • sebastiangard

    That's a totally valid criticism Like all software, Reality Drop is a work in progress. Now that we have a significant number of people using it, we will be getting data to help us discover and prioritize improvements. The underlying database of myths and counterpoints is large and diverse enough that we should be able to get to a place where it doesn't seem like spam. We also think the community of users will start to develop some of their own implicit rules about stuff like this, but since everyone is new as of yesterday, there hasn't been time for a community to develop around the tool. Thanks for the piece, and the thoughtful criticism. (I work at Arnold Worldwide, btw.)