Generally, these topics are discussed by younger, less educated people than the the other three Platforms (Quantum Revolution and Advanced AI, Human Augmentation and Science and Diplomacy), although the new 2022 topics of solar radiation modification and infectious diseases show more of a balance between age groups and academic background.
Concerns vary significantly across regions. In Europe, Asia and South America, the perceived failure of the energy transition dominates discussion, while dangers associated with space travel are strongly discussed in North America. Concerns over future investment levels in oil and gas are more dominant in Africa.
There are demographic variations too: young authors discuss the positive potential of decarbonisation and the energy transition, but don’t focus on concrete approaches. Climate change and food systems topics appear more likely to interest individuals with higher education, and they “under-interest” females, both in absolute and in relative terms compared to the general population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily affected discussions on infectious disease, with a perceived lack of transparency reducing confidence in disease control. Conspiracies like chemtrails — the belief that governments are controlling the weather or poisoning the environment, as evidenced by contrails behind planes — strongly bias discussions around solar radiation management on social media. Discussions around solar radiation modification and infectious disease are niche, mainly dominated by experts and sceptics, highlighting a lack of accessibility to these topics. This is the smallest dataset among new topics across scientific Platforms. There is a fear about an improper allocation of funds to future-looking topics at the detriment of investing in topics such as social justice. Across the board, topics revolving around space travel and exploration seem to impress and fascinate the general public.
Within the sentiment analysis clouds below each node represents one article and the linkages between dots show relations between topics in the analysed data.
Negative sentiment is centered around:
- New or improved technologies and infrastructure that can more quickly and effectively detect and track the spread of infection (the discussion is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and a perceived lack of transparency around disease tracking).
- The emergence of new, antibiotic resistant zoonoses through inadequate food security and animal health, especially in developing countries (widespread use of antibiotics in livestock is also a subject of concern).
- Drastic differences in country-level responses, which lead to doubts about the most efficient infection control measures and future preparedness of countries.
- Outbreak control for vulnerable people: the controversy of protection versus freedom and associated discrimination has incited fears of repetition in future outbreak responses.
- Measures for disease control and the lack of transparency in decisions.
- Divides between the public and science on solar radiation modification, with concerns remaining about ethical, health and economic issues.
- Commercial space travel, and the volume of investment and public subsidies poured into it compared with funding to combat issues of social justice. The chemtrails conspiracy, suspicions about government tests of geoengineering and the potential risks of geoengineering for human health and climate.
- Climate politics and the failure to avert either extreme climate events (e.g. floods and wildfires), or the slow degradation of glaciers, ice sheets and ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream.
Neutral/mixed sentiment is centered around:
- Increased public interest in geoengineering activities driven by new research and funding for geoengineering applications.
- Progress of the energy transition and climate politics, especially regarding the required pace of transition and its predicted effect on businesses (mainly due to the high cost of transitioning).
- Space exploration: how it can help us understand our development as a species, as well as recent scientific reports from NASA’s Perseverance Rover and the ISS.
Positive sentiment is centered around:
- Acceleration of climate change policies worldwide to set ambitious carbon-reduction targets and promote climate change mitigation strategies.
- Transdisciplinary and collaborative efforts to improve the health of humans, animals and the environment through research.
- Use of AI in drug development and testing, including virtual clinical trials, decentralisation and the increased use of digital tools (these were seen as a path to creating a more efficient and cost-effective system).
- New detection methodologies and digital technologies that improve patient monitoring and disease surveillance.
- Advanced healthcare infrastructure, such as permanent task forces for testing, tracing and other epidemic monitoring measures, expanding into developing regions.
- Ocean stewardship, including community-led ocean and beach cleanup initiatives.
- Sustainable food production, including sustainable farming and aquacultures, and reducing consumer food waste.
- Decarbonisation advances and clean energy initiatives in the form of policy decisions or private sector pledges and collaborations to cut CO2 emissions.