As we look to the post-pandemic future, discussion around climate change is rising once again, with the IPCC recently warning that the impact of human-caused climate disruption is already irreversible, and that average temperatures will rise by more than 1.5 degrees over the next two decades, if we don’t work collaboratively to address it.

The ramifications of those changes will create major upheaval, but not as fast as some doubters predict. You won’t be thrown into an ice age or be subjected to unbearable heat overnight. However, climate change is a reality, and as a result, we must do all we can to spread the word about the science underlying it and to maximize international collaboration in addressing it.

Which is where Twitter’s looking with its new #ExtremeWeather visualization project.

As explained by Twitter:

“Before, during, and after severe weather unfolds, people turn to Twitter to discuss what’s occurring. In reality, during a seven-year period, mentions of “climate change” increased by 50% on average in a sample of English-language Tweets from 2013 to 2020. Environmental activists use Twitter to raise awareness about the climate issue, organize their communities, and connect with others who are enthusiastic about preserving the world. This discussion has proved to be strong and impactful.

Twitter climate change research

Leaning into this use case, Twitter’s new ‘Exploring #ExtremeWeather’ mini-site provides a range of climate case studies and data insight, based on tweet trends,

Brandwatch, NTT Data, and Sprout Social worked together to create the interactive visualizations for the mini-site, which also includes overviews that let users discover how the Twitter conversation has changed since major events such as the Australian bushfires, the Jakarta floods, and the Texas freeze.

Twitter Texas Freeze data

See how the visualizations look at how Twitter has developed as well as particular aspects of debate and interest in this example. This may assist both give additional insight into how trends grow while also providing scientific background on the effects of climate change.

‘These #ExtremeWeather visualisations show how climate change crosses all boundaries and highlights the need of global collective action,’ he says. We think the developer community can play an important part in influencing how we prepare for and react to these #ExtremeWeather occurrences by utilizing our API in creative ways, including creating tools and dashboards that assist people comprehend what is occurring.”

Additionally, Twitter has provided a more in-depth look at each trend, highlighting important remarks that contributed to the heightened buzz around each event.

Twitter climate change research

Which is interesting when you also consider that Twitter has been identified as a key platform for climate change deniers and activists, who seek to use these same moments to bend the narrative in another direction, with bots, in particular, identified as a weapon of choice.

In the wake of the Australian bushfires, for example, researchers from Queensland University identified networks of Twitter bots that were using coordinated tweet pushes in order to play down the influence of climate change in the crisis, and instead amplify alternative, yet unfounded explanations relating to arson and government-imposed restrictions on controlled burns.

In 2019, Wired reported that bot profiles were still dominating political news streams, with bots contributing up to 60% of tweet activity around some events. And while Twitter is doing more to detect and remove bots, and address their impact in this respect, it is worth noting this additional element in Twitter’s broader push to showcase how its platform helps to connect people around crisis events.

Even so, this is an important initiative – and while it won’t become a mainstream, broad messaging tool to underline the impacts of climate change, it will help researchers develop more understanding of how to use tweet trends to explore key elements, particularly in relation to maximizing climate messaging, and encouraging action.

You can check out Twitter’s #ExtremeWeather mini-site here.