Happy Women’s History Month! Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the climate disinformation sphere is once again filled with misogynistic attacks against women climate activists.
Recently, Greta Thunberg was targeted on social media for allegedly deleting a 2018 tweet that linked to an article that predicted climate change would wipe out humanity by 2023. However, a fact check in Newsweek explained that the original article that Thunberg's tweet quoted and linked to did mischaracterize the views of climate scientist James Anderson, who never actually said that humanity would go extinct in 2023. Newsweek concluded that “the claim that Thunberg deleted the tweet recently because the world has not ended this year is clearly misleading.”
But that’s just the start of it. Thunberg was also targeted on social media this week for an MSNBC interview that she did in 2021. Climate-denying Twitter trolls twisted her words in an attempt to keep the #ClimateScam disinformation alive.
The relentless harassment of Thunberg by climate disinformation-spreaders raises the question: why are they so intent on targeting her?
Well, misogyny might have a lot to do with it, as demonstrated by the barrage of foul posts comparing Thunberg to climate activist Sophia Kianni.
Kianni is a prominent environmental campaigner who founded Climate Cardinals, the erstwhile Twitter-partnered nonprofit organizing youth volunteers to translate climate information into over 100 languages. She is also the youngest member of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.
Yet for months, fossil fuel advocates have been calling Kianni “the new and improved Greta” and “Greta 2.0,” as if there could only be one young woman involved in climate activism at a time. Misogynistic trolls in the digital disinfosphere (and others) have policed her clothing choices and criticized her for doing normal things like taking selfies. Some have even claimed that the climate movement is replacing Thunberg with Kianni because of ageism.
The sexist climate disinformation, which fixates on women activists’ appearances, downplays their achievements, and pits successful women against each other, upholds both patriarchal systems of power and the fossil fuel industry. Scholars like Cara Daggett have long pointed out the intersection between climate denial and misogyny through the concept of petro-masculinity, which describes the way that fossil fuel systems uphold patriarchy, white supremacy, and authoritarianism.
As the misogynistic “manosphere” continues to spread its toxic influence across online platforms, women climate scientists, journalists, and activists are put at further risk of harassment and threats of violence.
The constant flood of online attacks against Thunberg and Kianni serves as a sobering reminder that climate disinformation and misogynistic hate speech are deeply intertwined.