Sharon Kelly's blog

Oil Industry Set Agenda During Climate Summit Meeting with Big Greens

Read time: 9 mins
Pratima Rangarajan, CEO of OGCI Climate Investments

Last week, as climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Action Summit, invited leaders from major environmental groups spent their day listening to the leaders of fossil fuel companies discuss how they want to respond to the climate crisis.

Depending on which room you were in, you would have heard two very different messages.

Fossil Fuel Ad Campaigns Emphasize 'Positives' After Climate Science Denial PR Lands Industry in Hot Seat

Read time: 7 mins
Oil rig at sunset over Huntington Beach, California

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.  

Public relations experts keep a careful eye on the multitude of ways that PR can go wrong: tracking the year’s biggest “PR blunders,” assessing flopped ads for lessons learned, and noting when to remain silent and when to circulate a particular point of view.

PR blunders have been blamed for causing stock prices to dip, powerful executives to lose jobs, and occasionally even forced public apologies from PR representatives themselves.

But it takes a special kind of PR nightmare — a particularly unusual kind in the U.S., with its broad protections for free speech — to prompt investigations by state attorneys general into whether a company’s public messaging was so misleading and harmful that it should be considered illegal.

That is the situation facing one of the world’s most powerful industries, on one of the most consequential issues of our time, climate change. The subject of these investigations isn’t the direct harm from the fossil fuel industry’s actions, it’s the ways that companies communicated about their actions, and how that misled investors or the public.

And right on cue, the fossil fuel industry's PR professionals have been stepping in to help reshape the narratives propping up their bottom lines.

Fracking and Shale Drilling Caused Spike in Climate-Warming Methane Pollution, Says New Study

Read time: 8 mins
Flaring in Permian Basin Shale with sunflowers

Climate-changing pollution reached unprecedented levels in 2018. That's both judged against the last 60 years of modern measurements and against 800,000 years of data culled from ice cores, according to the U.S. government’s State of the Climate report, which was published this week with the American Meteorological Society.

That pollution creates a greenhouse effect that is over 42 percent stronger than it was in 1990, the report added.

And while carbon dioxide hit a new level last year, it isn't the only climate-changing gas that’s on the rise globally. Pollution of the powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas methane also climbed in 2018, showing an increase “higher than the average growth rate over the past decade,” the report adds.

A new Cornell University study published today in the scientific journal Biogeosciences helps to explain what sparked the surge in those methane concentrations, both here in the U.S. and around the world.

One big culprit: shale drilling and fracking.

Teaching Kids About Climate Science Leads to More Climate-Concerned Parents on Right and Left, New Study Finds

Read time: 5 mins
Kids peer over insects to identify them

Educating kids about climate change can help their parents learn too, a scientific study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes — even when parents initially doubted that climate change was cause for concern.

This study tells us that we can educate children about climate change and they’re willing to learn, which is exciting because studies find that many adults are resistant to climate education, because it runs counter to their personal identities,” said Danielle Lawson, lead author and a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University. “It also highlights that children share that information with their parents, particularly if they’re given tools to facilitate communication — and that parents are willing to listen.”

Oil Companies Will Be Bad Investments Within Five Years, Predicts Survey of European Fund Managers

Read time: 6 mins
Oil derricks at sunset

European fund managers are casting an increasingly skeptical eye towards the oil industry, concluding that the industry’s financial future looks grim, according to a new survey published by a London-based organization today.

Just 18 percent of the responding fund managers, including representatives of firms based in the UK, France, Spain, and Italy, predicted that “oil companies will be good investments if their business is still focused on fossil fuels in five years’ time,” according to the survey, published by the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) and the Climate Change Collaboration.

‘All Rhetoric and No Action’: Oil Giants Spent $1 Billion on Climate Lobbying and Ads Since Paris Pact, Says Report

Read time: 7 mins
climate policy grades for five major oil companies

A new report by a British think tank estimates that since the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world’s five largest listed oil and gas companies spent more than $1 billion lobbying to prevent climate change regulations while also running public relations campaigns aimed at maintaining public support for climate action.

Combined, the companies spend roughly $200 million a year pushing to delay or alter climate and energy rules, particularly in the U.S. — while spending $195 million a year “on branding campaigns that suggest they support an ambitious climate agenda,” according to InfluenceMap, a UK-based non-profit that researches how corporations influence climate policy.

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