24 April 2024

Climate Security and Misinformation: A Baseline

As climate change and policy responses grow more intense, prominent, and high-stakes, opportunities will grow for state and non-state actors to spread mis- and disinformation. These mis- and disinformation challenges go beyond climate denialism, and are present across the breadth of climate security risks. These risks comprise the physical impacts of climate disasters, cascading socio political impacts of climate change, and backlash or unintended consequences from climate policies themselves.

These challenges are already occurring, including scapegoating of climate disasters on minorities or marginalized groups, xenophobic incitement against those displaced by climate change, petrostate or corporate efforts to discredit the energy transition, or state efforts to gain influence over shared water resources, climate-vulnerable allies, or foreign critical mineral supplies.

These risks are mediated and exacerbated by broader factors, including the design and communication of climate policies. Many elements of the broader landscape bode poorly for climate security and misinformation, including low societal and institutional trust, fragmented information ecosystems, and the impacts of underregulated technologies.

Beyond this baseline framework, important questions for future inquiry exist about specific climate misinformation risks and how to ensure integrated and effective policy responses.

This report provides a baseline on the intersection of climate security risks and mis- and disinformation challenges. For the purposes of clarity, we provide these definitions adapted from the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA):

  • Misinformation: false information, but not necessarily intended to cause harm.
  • Disinformation: false information used to intentionally mislead, harm, or manipulate.
  • Malinformation: information that is factual, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.

These are extracts from a briefer, published in April 2024 by the Center for Climate and Security of the Council on Strategic Risks, authored by Tom Ellison and Brigitte Hugh. The full paper can be accessed through the link here.

Photo credit: Dennis Amith via Flickr