“GLOBAL warming is the greatest scam in history.”like this one , confusing the public and frustrating climate scientists.
That frustration prompted Emmanuel Vincent at the University of California, Merced, to create Climate Feedback, a tool that lets climate scientists review journalists’ reports on the subject and give each story a credibility score.
The system uses a web annotation browser extension called Hypothesis to enable an invited group of climate scientists to comment on words, sentences or data points within media stories. Anyone who installs the plug-in can see the additional layer of commentary.
“Highlight misinformation, and it sends a visual cue to the reader to be cognitively on guard”
For example, one Forbes article headlined “Updated NASA Data: Global Warming Not Causing Any Polar Ice Retreat” has 33 comments from nine scientists who have given it the lowest possible credibility score. The piece, one of the site’s most popular climate stories of 2015, “contains many invalid and unjustified claims”, says Jan Lenaerts, who studies polar climate and ice sheets at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. It’s not the first attempt to fact-check the internet. Other tools include email fact-checkerand web page annotation tool Truth Goggles, but all of them reach just a self-selecting few, says Matt Stempeck, who created LazyTruth. Getting Google to take these annotations into account when ranking search results would let initiatives like Climate Feedback make more impact, he says. Google is the trustworthiness of web content.
John Cook of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia, says that Climate Feedback could be powerful from a psychological point of view. “One of the reasons why misinformation is so problematic is because once a myth takes hold, it is fiendishly difficult to dislodge,” he says. “By highlighting misinformation, you’re sending a visual cue to the reader to be cognitively on guard.”
Vincent plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign next month to recruit more climate scientists and to develop a system for scoring the overall credibility of a publication’s climate coverage to help guide readers. The same approach could be applied to other fields such as GMOs, he says.
(Image: Jeffrey Blackler / Alamy)
This article appeared in print under the headline “Climate change checker marks sceptics down”
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