The 4D Project

A holistic, interdisciplinary strategy in response to climate solutions misinformation

Misinformation is a complex problem, influencing society at political, social, technological, and psychological levels. Solutions in response to misinformation need to be holistic and interdisciplinary. The 4D Project adopts this approach in response to climate misinformation, organised around four themes: Detect, Deconstruct, Debunk, and Deploy. Detection involves using machine learning algorithms to automatically detect and categorize misinformation. Once misinforming claims are detected, critical thinking methods are employed to deconstruct and analyse claims, identifying reasoning fallacies. The rhetorical techniques and fallacies in misinformation can be incorporated into debunking interventions, explaining how they mislead. Debunking interventions are then deployed at scale through public engagement and educational programs, with the goal of building public resilience against misinformation. 

Detection

In collaboration with the University of Exeter and Trinity College Dublin, we trained a machine learning model to automatically detect and categorize climate misinformation (see a prepress of the research). To achieve this, we constructed a comprehensive taxonomy of climate misinformation claims.

A chart breaks down climate denialist claims into subclaims

Deconstruction

In collaboration with critical thinking philosophers from the University of Queensland, we developed a critical thinking method to deconstruct and assess misinformation. This video introduces our 2018 critical thinking research published in Environmental Research Letters.

This video features a presentation by John Cook at 2018 CSICon in Las Vegas, explaining how parallel argumentation (in cartoon form) can inoculate the public against misinformation.

Debunking

Debunking misinformation is notoriously difficult, given the psychological complexities in correcting misconceptions. So it’s imperative that refutations follow principles informed by experimental research. Part of our work involves providing best-practices guidelines, such as the highly influential Debunking Handbookand Consensus Handbook. We have also published research into the efficacy of inoculation to neutralize misinformation, and continue to advance research into misinformation with a variety of experiments, testing different contexts, types of misinformation, and refutational formats and approaches.

A cartoon shows 2 examples of climate misinformation

Deployment

In order to achieve meaningful responses to misinformation, research into detection, deconstruction, and debunking of misinformation needs to be deployed at scale in real-world applications. We have published debunkings of climate misinformation through the Skeptical Science website, translated into 24 languages and receiving 3.7 million visitors per year. We developed the Massive Open Online Course, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial, which has received over 40,000 enrolments from 185 countries. In collaboration with the National Center for Science Education and Alliance for Climate Education, we developed high school curriculum that raises climate literacy and boosts critical thinking by countering climate misconceptions. We continue to develop and monitor the effectiveness of these efforts, as well as develop new social media applications.

In 2020, John Cook published Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change, a book countering climate misinformation using critical thinking and cartoons. Following the book launch, Cook produced a series of animated Cranky Uncle videos, ideal for use in classrooms.

In December 2020, we launched the Cranky Uncle game, which teaches resilience against misinformation using cartoons, gamification, and critical thinking. The game is free on iPhone, Android and in browsers (e.g., available to anyone with internet access.