As large parts of the U.S. Northwest and Canada are experiencing a historic “heat dome,” extreme droughts, and wildfires, climate change deniers are making thousands of dollars on Patreon by spreading conspiracies to their followers about an impending ice age.
A new report provided exclusively to VICE News by Advance Democracy, a nonprofit that conducts public-interest research and investigations, identified at least half a dozen major influencers who are spreading the false claim about an impending ice age that will fix the Earth’s global warming crisis. And they’re making thousands of dollars every month by doing so.
“The spread of climate misinformation is prolific on social media, as well as on sites like Patreon, where users are actually financially compensated through the platform for spreading falsehoods,” Daniel Jones, president of Advance Democracy, told VICE News.
“Companies hosting and promoting climate misinformation have a responsibility to take action to reduce dangerous misinformation, as falsehoods about climate science are every bit as dangerous as lies about vaccinations and disinformation about our elections.”
Patreon did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment on the report’s findings.
One of the biggest accounts spreading climate conspiracies is ADAPT 2030, which is run by David DuByne, who has 1,100 followers on Patreon. He is currently making over $3,500 every month from his subscribers.
The central tenet of DuByne’s message is that Earth is about to experience a “grand solar minimum” event that will usher in a “mini ice age” and reverse the effects of global warming.
This is the same argument made by the account called Electroverse, which currently has 468 patrons and is making approximately $2,081 per month, according to Patreon’s estimates.
In public messages reported from the account’s website, it argues that “COLD TIMES are returning” and that “NOAA and NASA appear to agree, if you read between the lines.”
Another account is called Grand Solar Minimum, while yet another is called Ice Age Farmer.
A solar minimum is a real thing: It’s the period of least solar activity in the 11-year solar cycle of the sun, marked by things like fewer sunspots and solar flares.
Every so often, the sun becomes quieter for longer periods of time, experiencing much fewer sunspots and giving off less energy. This is called a “grand solar minimum.”
The last time this happened, in the middle of the 17th century, it coincided with a period that was dubbed the "Little Ice Age." As well as the reduced solar activity, the cooling was caused by increased volcanic activity, and while the name suggests the impact was significant, scientists now agree that it amounted to no more than a modest cooling of the Northern Hemisphere.
But, last year, as conspiracy theorists were increasingly speculating about another grand solar minimum causing another “mini ice age”, NASA dismissed the possibility:
“The warming caused by the greenhouse gas emissions from the human burning of fossil fuels is six times greater than the possible decades-long cooling from a prolonged Grand Solar Minimum,” the NASA Global Climate Change team wrote in February 2020.
“Even if a Grand Solar Minimum were to last a century, global temperatures would continue to warm,” the report said. ”Because more factors than just variations in the Sun's output change global temperatures on Earth, the most dominant of those today being the warming coming from human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.”
But this has not prevented DuByne and many others from preying on people’s fears about climate change to spread conspiracies about an impending ice age, which they say will miraculously fix all of earth’s climate problems.
DuByne offers seven different membership levels for supporters, beginning at just $1 per month.
The most expensive costs $100 a month, and gives patrons “a private 20-minute call with David DuByne once per month, to discuss your particular preparedness issues or concerns.” So far just two people are paying this amount.
The researchers also found at least eight other accounts on Patreon that have spread climate change conspiracy theories as part of wider conspiracy sharing, including baseless claims about COVID-19 and the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s presidency. Some of these accounts are earning over $600 per month.