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Episode Guide: 'Dousing Denial'

In the premiere episode of "Infodemic," explore how information can easily be distorted or removed by organizational entities and individuals, and the ultimate challenge of the campaign to fight climate change.
"Infodemic" investigates the roots and repercussions of science denial in the U.S. and China, from climate change to COVID denial.
S1 E1: Dousing Denial (Preview)

Part 1: "Post-truth" and "the lost realm of knowledge"

In the first segment, join Lee McIntyre, author of "Post Truth" and "The Scientific Attitude," and Joy Yueyue Zhang, senior lecturer in sociology at University of Kent, as they investigate the roots and repercussions of science denial.

McIntyre describes the phenomenon of "post-truth," when facts are less influential than appeals to emotion, as a consequence of disinformation. He claims the practice of insisting something is true despite knowing it is not is nothing new, attributing it to "50 years of unchecked science denial" going back to the days of tobacco lobbyists insisting cigarettes didn't cause cancer, and to reports in 2015 of ExxonMobil’s history of climate denial. While Zhang wouldn’t call it "post-truth," she does describe a "lost realm of knowledge" that exists today. She points out that a lack of data transparency has led to skepticism in science.

Author Lee McIntyre poses with his book, "The Scientific Attitude."
1/3 Author Lee McIntyre poses with his book, "The Scientific Attitude." | Infodemic: Dousing Denial
Lee McIntyre poses next to a poster promoting a flat earth conference.
2/3 Lee McIntyre poses next to a poster promoting a flat earth conference. | Infodemic: Dousing Denial
Joy Y. Zhang
3/3 Joy Y. Zhang | Infodemic: Dousing Denial

Taken from their conversations, there are typically two methods of tampering with truth:

  • To distract from the truth;
  • To remove it entirely.

Methods of distraction are prevalent in the U.S., exemplified by practices of the Trump Administration, while censorship is more common in China. At the end of the day, who does this affect? And how do people get others to care that this is happening?

Further Reading

Part 2: The fight against climate change

In the second half, meet Lina Yassin, a Sudanese journalist and program manager at Climate Tracker, a nonprofit organization that supports and trains climate journalists, and François-Marie Bréon, climatology researcher at Association Française pour l’Information Scientifique.

Yassin describes flash flooding and excessive heat in Sudan that are clear indicators of climate change directly affecting the country. But because effects vary among different places — like between Sudan and France — she notes there exists an "inequality" in the fight against climate change.

A group of people wade through flood water.
1/3 A group of people wade through flood water. | Infodemic: Dousing Denial
A dust storm gathered in the distance.
2/3 A dust storm gathered in the distance. | Infodemic: Dousing Denial
Lina Yassin speaking to a group of journalists.
3/3 Lina Yassin speaking to a group of journalists. | Infodemic: Dousing Denial

Bréon suggests a couple ways that could help reduce the effects of climate change:

  • Shutting down coal plants in favor of nuclear power;
  • Decreasing international travel.

But as it turns out, even during the COVID era of less air travel, total carbon emissions did not reduce that much. He explains the positive effects of combating climate change take a long time to actually manifest. "People will not see the benefit of their own behavior in their lifetime," he says, and that is the challenge that climate change activists grapple with.

Further Reading

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