Big oil’s ‘wokewashing’ is the new climate science denialism

C C Offline

EXCERPT: Oil companies stopped pushing overt climate denial more than a decade ago. And while conspiracy theories claiming climate change is a hoax may surface occasionally, they are no longer an effective strategy.

Instead, the fossil fuel industry, utilities and the various trade groups, politicians and think tanks that carry water for both, have pivoted to messages that acknowledge the problem, but downplay its severity and the urgency for solutions. Instead companies are overstating the industry’s progress toward addressing climate change.

In a paper published in the journal Global Sustainability last July, economist William Lamb and nearly a dozen co-authors catalogued the most common messaging from those who would prefer to see inaction on climate for as long as possible. According to Lamb’s team, the industry’s “discourses of delay” fall into four buckets: redirect responsibility (consumers are also to blame for fossil fuel emissions), push non-transformative solutions (disruptive change is not necessary), emphasize the downside of action (change will be disruptive), and surrender (it’s not possible to mitigate climate change).

“This was a paper that was born on Twitter, funnily enough,” Lamb says. Lamb and collaborators Giulio Mattoli and Julia Steinberger began compiling the fossil fuel messaging they saw repeatedly on social media. Then they asked other academics from various fields to add what they were seeing too, and patterns soon emerged.

Lamb says they explicitly left denial out of the equation. “What we tried to do was really examine delay as something distinct,” he says. “From our view, delay had not received the kind of attention it deserves.”

Of all the messaging geared toward delaying action on climate, or assurances that the fossil fuel industry has a grip on possible solutions, Lamb and other authors agreed that one theme was far more prevalent than the rest: “the social justice argument.”

This strategy generally takes one of two forms: either warnings that a transition away from fossil fuels will adversely impact poor and marginalized communities, or claims that oil and gas companies are aligned with those communities. Researchers call this practice “wokewashing”.

An email Chevron’s PR firm CRC Advisors sent to journalists last year is a perfect example. It urged journalists to look at how green groups were “claiming solidarity” with Black Lives Matter while “backing policies which would hurt minority communities”. Chevron later denied that it had anything to do with this email, although it regularly hires CRC and the bottom of the email in question read: “If you would rather not receive future communications from Chevron, let us know by clicking here.”

Another common industry talking point argues a transition away from fossil fuels will be unavoidably bad for impoverished communities. The argument is based on the assumption that these communities value fossil fuel energy more than concerns about all of its attendant problems (air and water pollution, in addition to climate change), and that there is no way to provide poor communities or countries with affordable renewable energy.

Chevron also claimed solidarity with Black Lives Matter last year, although it is also responsible for polluting the Black-majority city it’s headquartered in: Richmond, California, where Chevron also pays for a larger-than-average police force. Meanwhile the American Petroleum Institute, Big Oil’s largest trade group and lobbyist, funds diversity in stem programs, but it also declines to acknowledge the disproportionate impacts on communities of color.

Discourses of delay don’t just show up in advertising and marketing campaigns, but in policy conversations too. “We’ve gone through thousands of pieces of testimony on climate and clean energy bills at the state level, and all of the industry arguments against this sort of legislation included these messages,” says J Timmons Roberts, professor of environment and sociology at Brown University, and a co-author on the “discourses of delay” paper.

In a recently published study focused on delay tactics in Massachusetts, for example, Roberts and his co-authors catalogued how fossil fuel interest groups and utility companies in particular used discourses of delay to try to defeat clean energy legislation. Another recent study found similar campaigns against clean energy and climate bills in Connecticut. “The social justice argument is the one we’re seeing used the most,” he says... (MORE - missing details)
Syne Offline
It is a fact that, unless you have an equally cheap and abundant source, stopping all fossil fuel use will harm the poor most. Everyone, not just the fossil fuel industry, pivoted away from denial when leftists pivoted from "global warming" to "climate change," which everyone trivially agrees has always occurred. And it wasn't only the oil industry that found hysterical leftist doomsayers ridiculous. This obviously biased paper, just looking at the credentials of all the authors, also completely fails to define "disproportionate impacts on communities of color."

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