Updated Jun 9, 2022 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on battling misinformation

On Thursday, June 9th, Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond and health care editor Tina Reed led conversations examining the real world impacts of misinformation on public health and climate action. Guests included White House national climate advisor Gina McCarthy and National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities director Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable.

Gina McCarthy explained how misinformation around climate change makes her job more difficult, how climate disinformation threatens public health and the importance of improving public understanding of the value of renewable energy technologies.

  • On efforts from fossil fuel companies to seed doubt about clean energy solutions: “We have to get tighter. We have to get better at communicating. And frankly, the tech companies have to stop allowing specific individuals over and over again to spread disinformation. That’s what the fossil fuel companies pay for…that’s what they do. We have to be smarter than that and we need the tech companies to really jump in.”
  • On whether climate misinformation is a threat to public health: “Oh, absolutely. It’s not just denial of this, it’s also greenwashing. You have these companies that are claiming to be part of the solution that really are just not informing people about what they’re really doing and how they’re really investing and how people should be investing their money if they really care about climate.”

Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable described the frustration the scientific community felt as vaccine misinformation spread, the challenges public health institutions faced in coordinating pandemic messaging strategies and the effectiveness of community-level messaging to build public trust.

  • On the scientific community’s reaction to vaccine misinformation: “Our initial reaction…was, “this is ridiculous, we’ll just tell them that’s not true.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough. What we really got behind on communication science of how we as scientists not just do the discoveries and put forth the therapies, but also think, how are we going to communicate this to the world, to our audience? Because if we do great things and then there’s no uptake or people are just misinterpreting what we’re communicating, then we are not going to be nearly as successful, as we unfortunately have seen with the COVID-19 vaccine.”
  • On the effectiveness of community level health messaging: “In my view, the most effective way of communicating about health messages like this is from a health professional who is a trusted member of a community. Rather than have me get up on the pulpit…have your local doctor, nurse or health advocate do that at your local community level.”

In the View from the Top segment, 3M corporate scientist and chief science advocate Dr. Jayshree Seth shared findings from their recent study measuring attitudes toward science that showed the impact of misinformation on scientific credibility.

  • “The 2022 results show that regardless of subject matter, most Americans say misinformation is prevalent on social media and traditional news. 72% of Americans say they trust science-based facts on traditional news. 37% say they trust science-based facts on social media. It is a problem if people can’t trust the science information they are getting…science relies in many ways on the trust of the public, and the public relies on the trust in science, and misinformation can really undermine this relationship.”

Thank you 3M for sponsoring this event.

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