Aug 13, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Internet response to dire UN climate report was muted vs. 2018

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

This week's UN IPCC report made a bigger splash online than a special report the panel issued in 2019, but one that was well below 2018's examination of the feasibility of holding global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), according to exclusive data provided by NewsWhip.

Why it matters: The data shows that the shock factor needed to jolt the public into demanding — and taking — action to curb the effects of climate change may be wearing off. It may also show that the report, or the media coverage of the findings, was too alarming and turned people off from engaging with it, given the headlines it generated.

By the numbers: Stories published in the first three days after the report's release generated 985k social media interactions (likes, comments, shares).

Flashback: The 2018 report arrived just in time to help fuel a worldwide youth-led social movement for climate action, most prominently associated with Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.

  • Thunberg went on a school strike to force policy action, and global climate protests expanded — in part fueled by concerns over the report's findings that the world was running out of time to avoid the most calamitous consequences of warming.

The most-engaged headlines from this year:

  1. Climate change: IPCC report is 'code red for humanity' - BBC (119k interactions)
  2. 'Code red for humanity': UN report gives stark warning on climate change, says wild weather events will worsen - USA Today (102k)
  3. A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us. - New York Times (80k)
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