Large-scale decrease in the social salience of climate change during the COVID-19 pandemic

Spisak, Brian R.; State, Bogdan; Leemput, Ingrid van de; Scheffer, Marten; Liu, Yuwei


There are concerns that climate change attention is waning as competing global threats intensify. To investigate this possibility, we analyzed all link shares and reshares on Meta’s Facebook platform (e.g., shares and reshares of news articles) in the United States from August 2019 to December 2020 (containing billions of aggregated and de-identified shares and reshares). We then identified all link shares and reshares on “climate change” and “global warming” from this repository to develop a social media salience index–the Climate SMSI score–and found an 80% decrease in climate change content sharing and resharing as COVID-19 spread during the spring of 2020. Climate change salience then briefly rebounded in the autumn of 2020 during a period of record-setting wildfires and droughts in the United States before returning to low content sharing and resharing levels. This fluctuating pattern suggests new climate communication strategies–focused on “systemic sustainability”–are necessary in an age of competing global crises.