US Google Searches For "Climate Change" And "Paris Agreement" Spiked Only This Month


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer


You don't know what you've got until it's gone. Avivi Aharon/Shutterstock

The decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement has been roundly condemned by pretty much everyone outside the Trump administration and his conflicted voter base. It appears to have caused a seismic shift in the US political landscape too – entire states are vowing to uphold the accord’s goals by circumventing the White House and working with foreign leaders and businesses directly.

Google’s informatics have provided us with yet another curious morsel to chew over in the aftermath of the decision. As the graph below clearly shows, from about 2004 to 2015, the phrase “climate change” was bubbling along with a fairly low profile in terms of US-based Google searches. It received a tiny bump when the Paris agreement was signed, but nothing major – and during the US election, it received a slightly higher bump.


Then, all of a sudden, it received a huge spike in traffic – and there won’t be any prizes for guessing why. Trump’s decision to make a bit of a reality TV show reveal out of the whole Paris withdrawal disgrace directly caused a record-breaking spike in Google searches for “climate change”.


Sadly, the spike appears to have happened not in the run up to the announcement in the White House Rose Garden, but immediately afterwards. This is somewhat reminiscent of the spike in “What is the EU?” search results in the UK that took place immediately after the decision to leave the EU was infamously declared.

Essentially, it appears that the electorate were suddenly wondering what it was the US was now refusing to help prevent. This suggests that climate change was, perhaps unsurprisingly, not at the forefront of voter’s minds during the 2016 election, which is a deep shame considering all that’s come to pass since in relation to science.

Google searches in US for "Climate Change" over last few weeks. The spike occurred on June 2, the day after the announcement was made. Google

It’s worth mentioning that during the June 2 spike, there was another that eclipsed it by a huge margin – and that was the search for the word “covfefe”.


We had a look to see how the search term “what is the Paris agreement” was doing over the last week too. It appears there was a huge spike on June 1, followed by a second one a day later as the world reacted to the President and his blustering. This is probably linked to leaked reports suggesting that Trump had made his decision a day before it was official.

Since the summer of 2015, “what is the Paris agreement” barely made a dent in the rankings, even when it was signed in December of that year. The only time it’s appeared prominently was this month.

Google searches in US for "what is the paris agreement" since Summer 2015. The spike occurred on June 1-2. Google

This leads us to one rather interesting and melancholic conclusion – the US public didn’t know what it had until it was gone.


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