Is the provision of knowledge enough, particularly given the proliferation of misinformation in the modern-day culture of fake news? Nature Communication tries to answer this question through an open editorial.
"While the concept has gained new heights in the wake of the recent US election, fake news has plagued climate and environmental science for decades. Influential misinformation campaigns, selective media exposure, fabricated controversies, alternative facts and false media balance have, in the view of many, manipulated scientific knowledge, sown seeds of confusion among the populace and threatened to derail environmental progress.
The public’s awareness of the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is a prime example of the consequences of scientific misinformation. With 97% of scientific experts in agreement that modern-day climate change is the result of human activity, the consensus is clear. Yet, a 2016 survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication showed that more than half of American adults are unaware that a consensus exists, with 28% believing a great deal of uncertainty remains.
Half of US audiences and two-thirds in the UK admit to not noticing the originating news brand responsible for providing their social media content. Society’s preference for like-mindedness and the echo-chamber effect generated by social media platforms can further perpetuate the problem. This is particularly concerning given that, by the age of 18, 88% of young adults claim to receive their news through Facebook and other social media.
Wider visibility of scientific information alone is unlikely to resolve this issue".