Despite 2023 expected to be the hottest year on record, with unprecedented natural disasters seen around the world, online discussions around the climate crisis surprisingly fell since 2022 (-12%). This is according to a Brandwatch study, commissioned by BayWa r.e., of over 41 million social media data points from more than 7 million unique authors.
Research has also shown that online conversation about COP in the lead up to the climate conference is down 73% since COP26. At the same time, mentions around artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on our lives are accelerating. Online conversations about AI, which have shot up +342% since last year, have been +14% higher on average than the climate crisis throughout 2023.
There has been significant progress made in the last two years since COP26, which was dubbed ‘the world’s best last chance’. Delayed due to Covid, there was a sense of purpose and urgency when COP26 finally took place. Outputs included revisited national climate commitments, expansion of renewables, extensive net zero commitments, investment in climate funding, and more. But while progress was made, subsequent action that reflected the urgency of our situation was lacking, and this has now become a theme for COP.
When it comes to permeating public consciousness, we see how the two COPs are worlds apart, with COP26 receiving 1.6 million mentions in the four weeks leading up to the conference and COP28 receiving around 425,000 during the same period. This is even significantly down on 2022’s COP27, which received 680,000 mentions during the same time period.
When it comes to the biggest threat to humanity, it’s AI, not climate change, that people fear most
One topic that has come to dominate 2023 is AI. With the dawn of ChatGPT and other generative AI models, the world has witnessed the abilities of these technologies to change how we live and work. Not just in how AI can be used to deploy time-saving efficiencies in our everyday lives, but in how it can mimic us and even eliminate the need for human influence. This has inevitably led to much discussion around the destructive potential of the technology. In fact, research shows us that, when compared to climate change, people are more focussed on the potential impacts AI can have on human life.
Mentions of AI in the context of ‘the end of the world’ are 8% higher than climate change, while mentions around the climate crisis in this respect have fallen by almost a quarter (-23.5%) since 2022. This is all in spite of countries around the globe seeing a significant acceleration of natural disasters, scientists agreeing that this is only the beginning of these kinds of climate events, and the IPCC’s AR6 Synthesis Report Climate Change 2023 underlining how humanity has reached a ‘critical moment in history’.
Matthias Taft, CEO, BayWa r.e. comments: “At a time when, more than ever, we need to be taking climate action, the conversation has been falling – with discussions focused more on potential existential threats than increasing world climatic disasters, which we are now regularly experiencing globally.
“What’s equally concerning is that this drop in conversation is happening in the run-up to the world’s biggest climate conference – one tasked with solving these very problems. Arguably demonstrating a lack of belief or even interest in COP28’s ability to deliver action when it is needed most.
“COP28 must deliver a globally transformational rapid response action plan. This should include immediately phasing out fossil fuels, accelerating the green energy transition, scaling up public and private finance and bringing countries closer together, when turbulent times risk driving them further apart. Faith in COP’s ability to deliver rapid and transformational change that reflects the immediacy of the threat we face must be restored through action.”