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Who are the most influential climate change activists?

Feature image credit: MikeDotta / Shutterstock

Without substantial changes to the way we live, we will cause irreversible damage to Earth. This is the very reason why so many activists protest and raise awareness of the climate crisis, to help get more people interested in saving our planet. However, it seems that, more than ever before, this activism has shifted onto digital platforms too.

Thus, energy comparison site SaveOnEnergy paired up with SEMRush to conduct a comprehensive study of the positive and negative language used by 15 top climate change activists on Twitter, by analysing their tweets, replies, and retweets, to determine which activists carry the greatest influence online. 

Which climate change activists are most positive online around the world?

1. Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

American-born climate change activist Dr. Ayana Johnson (also known by the Twitter handle @ayanaeliza) placed as the most influential online climate change activist in our study. After analysing 345 posts from her Twitter account, which has an impressive 66,000 followers, we recorded 122 positive words compared with just 19 negative words. To put that into perspective, Dr. Johnson uses 6.42 more positive words than negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘love’, ‘yay’, and ‘congrats’

Most common negative words used: ‘ban’, ‘fascist’, and ‘hell’

2. Paul Rose 

Paul Rose, who many will recognise from his various BBC appearances talking about climate change, ranks as the second most influential online climate change activist in our language study. 

Paul, who goes by the Twitter handle @Paul_Rose and has 16,500 followers, had 39 of his posts analysed in the study. We recorded 19 positive words compared to 6 negative words, which means that Paul uses 3.17 more positive words than negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘devastating’, ‘panic’ and ‘crisis’

Most common negative words used: ‘great’, ‘fantastic’ and ‘perfect’

3. Alexandria Villasenor

15-year-old climate justice activist, Alexandria Villasenor, placed as the third most influential online activist. Alexandria, better known as @AlexandriaV2005, has 49,100 followers and had 121 of her posts analysed in our study. In our study, we recorded 30 positive and 17 negative words and, to put that into perspective, Alexandria uses 1.76 more positive words than negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘love’, ‘hopeful’ and ‘awesome’

Most common negative words used: ‘stealing’, ‘horror’ and ‘ban’

4. Licypriya Kangujam 

Going by the Twitter handle of @LicypriyaK and boasting 92,500 followers, nine-year-old Licypriya Kangujam ranks as the fourth most influential online activist when it comes to climate change.

Our study analysed 407 posts from her Twitter account, which found Licypriya used 159 positive words compared to 95 negative words. This equates to 1.67 more positive words than negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘congratulations’, ‘happy’ and ‘win’

Most common negative words used: ‘crisis’, ‘ban’ and ‘war’

5. Jamie Margolin 

American activist Jamie Margolin, who goes by the Twitter handle of @Jamie_Margolin and has 39,400 followers, is the fifth most influential online activist on the matter of climate change according to our study. 

After analysing 58 of her posts, our study found 23 positive words were used, compared to 14 negative. This means Jamie uses 1.64 more positive words than negative words in her tweets, emphasising her strong online influence on the topic.

Most common positive words used: ‘love’, ‘celebrating’ and ‘happy’

Most common negative words used: ‘destruction’, ‘depressed’ and ‘depression’

Photo credit: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

6. Sunrise Movement

Sunrise Movement, an American youth-led political movement, ranked as the sixth most influential climate change activist account online. They can be found on Twitter by the handle @sunrisemvmt and have a whopping 263,000 followers. Our study analysed 402 tweets, retweets, and replies from the movement’s Twitter account and found 104 positive words used compared to 64 negative words. This means, following closely behind Jamie Margolin, Sunrise Movement uses 1.63 more positive words than negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘win’, ‘won’ or ‘justice’

Most common negative words used: ‘crisis’, ‘racism’ and ‘fascist’

7. Dr. Genevieve Guenther

With 35,100 followers on her Twitter account (@DoctorVive), Dr. Genevieve Guenther, founder of the organisation ‘End Climate Silence’, is the seventh most influential online activist. We analysed 749 posts from her Twitter account in total in our study and found that Dr. Genevieve Guenther used 153 positive words compared to 107 negative words. To put that into perspective, Dr. Guenther uses 1.43 more positive words than negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘great’, ‘love’ and ‘amazing’

Most common negative words used: ‘crisis’, ‘death’ and ‘threat’

8. Kaossara Sani

The eighth most influential online activist when it comes to climate change is Kaossara Sani, a Togolese climate change activist who also co-founded the #ActOnSahel movement. Sani goes by the Twitter handle @KaoHua3 and has a following of 7,300 followers. Our study analysed 379 of Kaossara’s posts, finding 1.31 positive words in relation to negative words. To break that down, our analysis found Sani used 111 positive words and 85 negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘peace’, ‘amazing’ and ‘justice’

Most common negative words used: ‘war’, ‘crisis’ and ‘injustice’

9. Peter Kalmus

Peter Kalmus, also known by the Twitter handle @climatehuman, is the ninth most influential climate change activist online according to our study. With 70,200 followers on his social media account, it’s no wonder he ranks among the top 10 most influential activists online. Our study analysed 609 posts from Peter’s account and recorded 143 positive words and 125 negative, which means he uses 1.14 more positive words compared to negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘great’, ‘strong’ and ‘love’

Most common negative words used: ‘bad’, ‘f#ck’ and ‘hell’

10. Emily Atkin

Emily Atkin, an American environmental reporter who also runs a climate podcast, is the tenth most influential climate change activist online. After analysing 343 posts from her Twitter account (@emorwee), which has 53,800 followers, we recorded an impressive 60 positive words and 53 negative words. To put that into perspective, Emily Atkin uses 1.13 more positive words than negative words.

Most common positive words used: ‘love’, ‘best’ and ‘won’

Most common negative words used: ‘crisis’, ‘hell’ and ‘bad’

Photo credit: Rupert Rivett / Shutterstock

11. Saoi O’Connor

Ranking as the eleventh most influential online activist is Irish-born climate activist Saoi O’Connor, also known as @saoi4climate on Twitter. After studying 186 of his posts, we recorded 49 positive words and 46 negative words overall, which means Saoi uses 1.07 more positive words than negative.

Most common positive words used: ‘love’, ‘happy’ and ‘fun’

Most common negative words used: ‘crisis’, ‘bad’ and ‘stupid’

12. Edgar McGregor

20-year-old climate activist Edgar McGregor is the twelfth most influential activist when it comes to raising awareness of climate change online. In our language study, we analysed 632 posts from his Twitter account (@edgarrmcgregor) and recorded 90 positive words and 119 negative words (a difference of 0.76) - the first account with more negative words than positive.

Most common positive words used: ‘win’, ‘great’ and ‘celebrate’

Most common negative words used: ‘crisis’, ‘bad’ and ‘pathetic’

13. 350

350 (or @350 on Twitter) is an international environmental organisation addressing the climate crisis all over the world and ranks as the thirteenth most influential climate change activism account online. After studying 293 of their Twitter posts on their 393,000 strong follower account, we recorded 62 positive words and almost 100 negative words (93) - a difference of 0.65.

Most common positive words used: ‘justice’, ‘strong’ and ‘love’

Most common negative words used: ‘crisis’, ‘disasters’ and ‘devastating’

14. Extinction Rebellion (XR)

The global environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion, has a strong following of 362,800 followers all over the world and ranks as the fourteenth most influential climate change activist account online. Of all 236 Twitter posts analysed, we recorded 33 positive words compared to 70 negative words, which is hardly surprising when they are known for rebelling against extinction and climate change - a difference of 0.47.

Most common positive words used: ‘love’, ‘justice’ and ‘best’

Most common negative words used: ‘death’, ‘destroying’ and ‘destructive’

15. Greta Thunberg

The 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, is internationally known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action against climate change. Therefore it’s unsurprising that Thunberg ranks among the fifteenth most influential climate change activists online. In our language analysis study of 37 of Greta’s Twitter posts, we found that she uses 8 positive words compared to 18 negative words - a difference of 0.44. Boasting an impressive following of 4.4 million people, it suggests that using words with negative connotations in your activism efforts could be more successful than being positive.

Most common positive words used: ‘brave’, ‘encouraging’ and ‘gain’

Most common negative words used: ‘crisis’, ‘anger’ and ‘died’

Photo credit: MAURO UJETTO / Shutterstock

Most common positive words used by activists:

Love: 9 Great: 4 Justice: 4 Happy: 3 Win: 3

Most common negative words used by activists:

Crisis: 10 Bad: 4 Ban: 3 Hell: 3

Methodology:

  1. SaveOnEnergy scoured through lists of popular climate activists and cross-referenced whether they were active on Twitter.

  2. We then teamed up with online analytics tool SEMrush.com to collect tweets of these accounts. They detected positive and negative words and subsequently calculated the number of such words used by each account between 1st Nov 2020 to 7th Dec 2020.

  3. In order to calculate positive words used in relation to negative words, SEMrush compared the number of positive to negative tweets of each account. The number of positive words is X times higher than negative (1 means that the number of positive and negative words is equal, >1 means that there are more positive words).

  4. We then analysed the top 15 accounts to discover which activist was the most influential on Twitter.