How YouTube Profits From Climate Denial and Misinformation

If you search for videos about climate change on Youtube, you might run into one from PragerU called What They Haven’t Told You About Climate Change. In the video, a Canadian energy consultant named Patrick Moore claims that the world hasn’t been significantly warmer in the 21st century (which is not true) and that there’s no strong correlation between global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels (also obviously false). Moore, an infamous climate denier, is billed as a co-founder of Greenpeace, which is also not true!

Yet YouTube is promoting that video with their recommendation algorithm, and running Greenpeace ads on it. And while it’s an egregious example of disinformation being spread, it’s hardly the only climate denial YouTube is promoting and making money off of.

A new study from the human rights nonprofit Avaaz found that YouTube has been “actively promoting” videos that spread climate denial and placing ads on them. The group searched the terms “climate change,” global warming” and “climate manipulation,” specifically focusing on the content YouTube suggested in its “Up Next” feature and suggestions bar. All told, it turned up 5,537 videos featuring climate denial. The videos had a combined 21.1 million views.

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On those videos, Avaaz found ads from 108 brands, including major ones like Samsung and L’Oréal. One in five of those ads were from environmental or “ethical” brands like Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and Save the Children. That means YouTube is making money off climate denial and through its partnership program with creators, ensuring deniers reap some of the profit, too.

It’s no surprise that a $160 billion company is making money in evil ways. After all, there’s really no way to make that much money ethically. But in our current media climate, this shit is especially scary.

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