Big Oil is still spending big dollars on climate-change denial

Deepwater Horizon fire. (Photo source: United States Coast Guard/Wikimedia Commons)
Deepwater Horizon fire. (Photo source: United States Coast Guard/Wikimedia Commons)

Over $1 billion since Paris.

This is the amount that the world’s top five public oil corporations have spent of their shareholders’ money to sway public opinion on climate change following the Paris Climate Accords in 2016.

The basic idea is to kill carbon taxes, support more drilling, advocate for looser restrictions on emissions — but all the while appearing to advocate a transition to a cleaner, greener world.

Buying influence

BP was the biggest spender, followed by Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total.

• $17 million of this went to Facebook ads alone in the last year and a half.

• $2 million was spent on Facebook and Instagram ads just to influence the 2018 midterm elections in the United States.

• ExxonMobil spent $56 million on “climate messaging” and $9.6 million on political advertisements to oppose carbon taxes and new drilling.

A report from InfluenceMap, which tracks how corporations spend money to influence climate-change policy, found that the positive messages promoted by oil companies “publicly support climate action while lobbying against binding policy. They advocate low-carbon solutions but such investments are dwarfed by spending on expanding their fossil fuel business.” 

Massachussets lawsuit

Now, the state of Massachusetts is suing the biggest company, ExxonMobil, over its use of the New York Times to advertise “false and misleading” statements related to climate change — a violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.

The Massachusetts Attorney General stated that “Exxon has known for 40 years about the catastrophic impact” of burning fossil fuels, and engaged in a “decades-long” effort to “deceive” the public and “sow doubt about climate science.”

Many of these advertisements — with titles such as “Apocalypse No” and “Climate Change: A Degree of Uncertainty” — ran in the New York Times in the 1970s and ’80s.

These ads continue in a different form today, promoting ExxonMobil’s image as combating climate change by investing in alternative fuels.

New York state lawsuit

In October, in addition to the new Massachusetts suit, the state of New York filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil over promoting fossil fuel products it calls “green.”

In essence, New York alleges that the corporation is engaging in sophisticated greenwashing on a massive scale.

The U.S. Supreme Court had sided with New York against ExxonMobil earlier this year, after the corporation attempted to block the suit.

Sources: WBUR, The Intercept, InfluenceMap, The Guardian

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