Insulting meteorologists: the new trend of deniers, conspiracy theorists and 'chemtrails'

Meteorologists are considered, rightly, as trusted scientists and disseminators by a large part of the population.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
22 May 2023 Monday 14:41
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Insulting meteorologists: the new trend of deniers, conspiracy theorists and 'chemtrails'

Meteorologists are considered, rightly, as trusted scientists and disseminators by a large part of the population. However, in recent months, in various countries and for reasons that are not entirely clear, they have faced a wave of threats, insults and slander, on many occasions spread through social networks, by people who can be considered part of the climate change denialist movements, conspiracy theorists (people who interpret multiple events as the product of a conspiracy) and convinced of the existence of the chemtrail phenomenon (contrails left by planes with harmful products).

Without any scientific basis, meteorologists are accused of lying or falsifying data for political or economic reasons.

The most evident and close case of this type of unjustified attacks has even required the forceful response of the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet), in a communication released on April 21.

The phenomenon is not only occurring in Spain. France and Australia are other examples of this unjustified and disastrous trend against experts in the study of weather conditions and climate.

On Twitter and other social networks, some users accused the Spanish climate agency of causing a drought, its Australian counterpart of manipulating thermometers and the French agency of exaggerating climate change through misplaced seasons.

"The coronavirus is no longer a trend, the conspiracists and deniers who talked about it are now spreading disinformation about climate change," Alexandre Lopez-Borrull, professor of Information and Communication Sciences at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, told AFP. (UOC).

"These scientific entities are considered part of the establishment, so anything they say is criticized or attacked on social networks," adds this communication expert.

Aemet members received threats on Twitter, by telephone and by email with expressions such as "murderers", "criminals", "they will pay", "we are watching them".

The messages came, for example, from people who believe the discredited theory that airplane condensation trails are actually chemtrails sprayed by authorities to poison people or create weather disasters.

The curious case of the supposed chemtrails has been dealt with, for example, by the AFP Factual research team.

In several of the known cases of attacks on meteorologists are people who speak of the "2030 agenda", a theory according to which global elites would have a plan to subjugate the people through climate policies and against covid. "Thieves! They are destroying nature by orders of the bloody 2030 agenda," indicated a message in this regard spread on social networks.

"We have seen an increase in insulting messages as a result of a thread we published about traces of condensation" on April 10, Aemet spokeswoman Estrella Gutiérrez-Marco explained to AFP.

Lopez-Borrull also indicates in this sense that a "significant increase" in the denial of climate change has been detected, especially among sympathizers of the extreme right who see it as a leftist cause.

"In that context, people feel alienated and end up listening to people they've never heard before, with messages that go straight to the emotions."

In another case investigated by AFP Factual, conservative media and Facebook users shared unverified information claiming that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology manipulated data from its thermometers.

Based on one particular data analysis, well-known climate skeptic Jennifer Marohasy claimed that the agency's digital thermometers were 0.7C warmer than old mercury thermometers. However, experts who analyzed the data claimed that Marohasy's claim is false.

Meville Nicholls, professor emeritus at Monash University, noted that the differences between digital and mercury devices is almost non-existent, between zero and 0.1 degrees.

"This difference is very small compared to the strong warming trend in average temperature in Australia" of 1.4 degrees over the last century, Nicholls said.

In France, where record temperatures were recorded in March in the southwest, a social media critic posted that the national weather service exaggerated warming by relying on station readings in urban districts, where it tends to be hottest. In this case, the experts consulted by AFP denied the information, pointing out that the limited network of 30 stations indicated in the publication is not the one used by scientists to measure climate change, and that the climate is also measured in rural districts.

"Meteo-France researchers use all possible measurements and create computer models with various hypotheses and longer timeframes for their analysis," said Christine Berne, a climatologist at the French climate agency.