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Hawaii Wildfires Stoke Climate Change Denial, Conspiracy Theories

Climate change-denying social media accounts are exploiting the deadly wildfires in Hawaii to push conspiracy theories that high-energy lasers were used to spark the flames. The narrative's surge highlights what disinformation experts say is a trend in which conspiracy theorists deny the science of climate change in response to extreme weather events.

"Any time there is a climate-related event and advocates call for accelerated climate action, there usually is a corresponding attempt to discredit climate science, disconnect the event from climate change and blame it on something else," said Arunima Krishna, a Boston University professor who studies climate disinformation.

Iain Boyd, an expert on directed energy weapons at the University of Colorado, told AFP the conspiracy theory defies reality in part because a laser with enough power to spark the Hawaii blazes would require an "Enormous" air or spacecraft that could not go unnoticed. Jennie King, head of climate research and policy at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said wildfire disinformation has evolved over the years.

More recent claims about the government using lasers to usher in climate-friendly cities advance the same central idea that global warming is insignificant, Ms. King said - but they also invoke a broader worldview harboured by supporters of QAnon and other conspiracy theories.

"It's easy to use those pictures as 'proof' of what 'they' are doing to us to further their climate change agenda or societal control, and people desperate for answers would rather believe in space weapons than the reality of the climate crisis."

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