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Scientists use TikTok to fight climate change

PARIS – Glaciologist Peter Neff shows his 220,000 TikTok followers an ancient ice sample excavated in Antarctica’s Allan Hills.

The teardrop-shaped fragment encapsulates tiny air sacs, remnants of a 100,000-year-old atmosphere.

The trapped greenhouse gases contain valuable information about Earth’s past climate, explains @icy_pete as he brings the translucent nugget closer to the camera.

A growing number of scientists are using the short-form video app TikTok to promote climate change literacy, campaign for action, or take action against rampant disinformation online.

Some have gone viral on one of Gen Z’s favorite platforms.

“TikTok allows me to give people a lens through which to embody the experience of being a climate scientist in Antarctica,” Neff told AFP.

“I share my insider perspective on how we create important records of past climates without having to spend too much time editing and playing all the games to create perfect content.”

Neff is one of 17 tickers and Instagrammers named in the 2023 Climate Creators to Watch, a collaboration between startup medium Pique Action and the Harvard School of Public Health.

“We have a responsibility”

Some experts also use the platform as a megaphone for climate protection.

NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus began posting videos on the platform after he was arrested in April 2022 in a civil disobedience action organized by the Scientist Rebellion group in Los Angeles.

“When you engage in civil disobedience, you are taking a risk for some positive benefit to society,” Kalmus told AFP.

“So you want this civil disobedience action to be seen by as many people as possible.”

Kalmus’ most viral video to date shows him speaking outside the gates of the Wilson Air Center in Charlotte, North Carolina to protest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from private jets.

The researcher sees his @climatehuman channel as a way to motivate people, especially younger demographics, to become activists.

He also wants to ensure accurate information is shared about the climate emergency.

According to Doug McNeall, climate scientist at the UK Met Office and lecturer at the University of Exeter, bringing climate literacy to TikTok is crucial to counteract climate-related misinformation.

“Climate scientists need to show up,” said McNeall, who is active on TikTok under the username @dougmcneall.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that people who are deliberately spreading false climate information don’t get a clear head,” he said, using a football metaphor.

An analysis by the US-based public interest think tank Advance Democracy found that the number of views of TikTok videos containing seven hashtags associated with climate change denial, such as “#ClimateScam” and “#FakeClimateChange”, has increased by more than 50 percent over the course of 2022, to 14 million views.

In February of this year, Doug McNeall and other pundits like Alaina Woods (@thegarbagequeen) released videos showing unsubstantiated theories about so-called “15-minute cities” thriving on the platform.

‘Normal People’

The concept is simple – an urban environment where all amenities such as parks and grocery stores are within a fifteen minute walk or bike ride of one person’s home, reducing the carbon emissions of urban car travel.

But searching “15 Minute City” on TikTok mostly yields taunting videos claiming the plans will restrict residents’ movements and fine people if they leave their neighborhoods.

To tackle misinformation on TikTok, scientists must first grab users’ attention.

“My strategy for getting young people interested in TikTok is similar to my approach to teaching,” said Jessica Allen, lecturer in renewable energy engineering at Australia’s Newcastle University.

“I try to engage my audience with memes or other funny things instead of just providing dry information,” she told AFP.

On TikTok, Allen tries to spread the word about the chemistry behind renewable energy, which is essential to achieving carbon neutrality.

When she’s not sharing clips that break down complex chemical reactions, @drjessallen might be posting TikTok dances in her lab.

“Scientists are ordinary people who can have fun,” she said.

Indeed, deconstructing the image of scientists stuck in their ivory towers can help climate experts reach a larger audience.

“We often make the mistake of making science seem perfect and not as flawed as we all are,” Neff said.

“On TikTok we show the human basis of our research.”

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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