Meedan’s Check Global Independent Media Response Fund (IMRF) is designed to respond to the hyperlocal needs of media practitioners, independent media newsrooms, fact-checking groups, citizen journalism projects, human rights defenders, researchers and technology and digital literacy advocates in North-Africa Western-Asia, Sub Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific region. The fund makes available micro-grants for journalists, media collectives and independent media organizations, such as Annie Lab.

Annie Lab newsroom is a fact-checking project at the Journalism & Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong (HKU Journalism) in collaboration with ANNIE (Asian Network of News & Information Educators), a not-for-profit educational organization registered in Hong Kong.

Annie Lab’s scope of work under the IMRF was to research and report on climate misinformation in Chinese social media. The team collated and debunked misleading posts about climate change and renewable energy related to China, and recently published their multilingual report on the nature and spread of that climate misinformation in China.

In their report, they summarize their key findings, which indicate the following:

  • The national discourse surrounding climate change drastically shifted around 2012, coinciding with the change in the state’s view on the topic. The climate crisis was seen as a tool by “the West” to prevent China’s growth until then. It was replaced by the notion that the crisis is real and, therefore, developing green technology is a great business opportunity for the country.
  • Almost any criticism of China by other countries and environmental activists is seen as having ulterior motives. Persistent misinformation about Greta Thunberg and subsequent vitriol reactions attacking her for something she did not do or say illustrates the historical mistrust of “the West” and “its puppets” vividly.
  • The same conspiratorial rhetoric about “the West” conjuring up the climate crisis to suppress China’s growth is now used against the country. Internationally, misleading claims about China making up the crisis to sell green technology and hold other countries “hostage” is a recurring narrative.
  • One intriguing narrative that emerged in the research was that rising temperatures can be proven beneficial to the prosperity of the country, which is presumably supported by China’s long history of various dynasties and historical climate data gathered by a Chinese meteorologist almost half a century ago. Although the authorities refuted such claims, the sentiment of national pride seems to drive the narrative to resurface occasionally.
  • Common climate misinformation in the English language also appears in the Chinese language on platforms outside the Great Firewall. They can be as misguided and influential; the Epoch Times and its sister media outlets periodically disseminate false claims, but they are not as frequently fact-checked.

“Climate misinformation in China and about China mirror the drastic changes which the country has gone through, from its economic ascent to its emergence as a global advocate for climate action. This places them at an interesting juncture, where diverse narratives of climate misinformation either bolster or attack this identity and pivot in priorities,” Purple Romero, the author of the report, said. 

“Having said this, it’s worth noting that Chinese experts and state media have exerted efforts to debunk climate misinformation which particularly raised doubts about climate science, including misleading posts which claimed that rising temperature signaled a period of prosperity for mainland China,” she added. “There are other narratives of climate misinformation that have been given new life time and time again, even if they have been extensively debunked before, because they triggered nationalistic sentiments.”  

Read the full report on Annie Lab’s website here.

Climate Misinformation
Climate Reporting
Journalism in APAC
Independent Media Response Fund


  1. Online conversations are heavily influenced by news coverage, like the 2022 Supreme Court decision on abortion. The relationship is less clear between big breaking news and specific increases in online misinformation.
  2. The tweets analyzed were a random sample qualitatively coded as “misinformation” or “not misinformation” by two qualitative coders trained in public health and internet studies.
  3. This method used Twitter’s historical search API
  4. The peak was a significant outlier compared to days before it using Grubbs' test for outliers for Chemical Abortion (p<0.2 for the decision; p<0.003 for the leak) and Herbal Abortion (p<0.001 for the decision and leak).
  5. All our searches were case insensitive and could match substrings; so, “revers” matches “reverse”, “reversal”, etc.



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Published on

July 7, 2023