What is ‘prebunking’ — and how to do it to help advance EVs

One of the best approaches to combating misinformation is to warn people about it before they see it. This is called “prebunking,” or “inoculation.”

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just saying, “Heads up, you’re going to see some misinformation today.” You have to give examples, while also answering the question, “Why would someone lie about that?”

Let’s walk through an example using electric vehicles, or EVs.

First, choose which lie to prebunk: Not all misinformation narratives are created equal. Some take hold faster and cause more harm than others. So choose the narrative that will be most impactful to dispel. You can do that by searching trusted resources, such as the Poynter Institute’s Politifact. (Find more trusted sources here.)

Understand your audience: “Your audience” = the people in your social networks, both online and off. Are you friends with many scientists? If so, it might take a more nuanced lie to fool your community. Is your cousin falling into a QAnon rabbit hole? Then maybe start with the most basic, obvious lies.

Example: Here’s a piece of misinformation that I’ve seen self-described environmentalists fall for: “Manufacturing an Electric Vehicle produces more emissions than a gas-powered car, so they aren’t really that clean.”

It works because there’s an element of truth in it. But it’s extremely misleading because it leaves out all the ways EVs surpass gas-powered vehicles over time. So here’s how to combat this disinformation narrative.

Create a “truth sandwich”Lead with the facts, introduce the fallacy and the logic behind it (why lie about this?), then end with another fact.

  • Fact: Driving an EV is cleaner than even the most efficient gas-powered car — and EVs will only get cleaner as our electric grid gets cleaner.
  • The misinformation: Of course, there are emissions from building every vehicle. Due to battery manufacturing, GHG emissions from building EVs are slightly higher than those from manufacturing a gasoline vehicle.
  • The logic: Those who want to keep the status quo rather than transition to a clean energy future conveniently leave out fact #1.
  • Another fact: Those increased emissions are quickly offset by zero tailpipe emissions during operation — for the life of the vehicle.

Now you can practice using these 7 undeniable climate change facts. Have fun!

Act when it matters most

Every day more than 60 people sign up for news and alerts, to find out when their support helps most. Will you join them? (Read our privacy statement.)

Donate to support this work