Climate scientists demand big PR firms drop fossil fuel clients

The billions of {dollars} that fossil fuel firms have poured into promoting and PR campaigns over the previous few a long time have helped play a significant position in slowing down local weather motion, convincing the general public that their actions and product weren’t as dangerous as the businesses knew them to be. Now, tons of of local weather scientists are asking advert and PR companies to drop polluters as clients.

“As scientists who examine and talk the realities of local weather change, we’re persistently confronted with a significant and unnecessary problem: overcoming promoting and PR efforts by fossil fuel firms that search to obfuscate or downplay our knowledge and the dangers posed by the local weather disaster,” the authors write in a new open letter to PR companies. “In reality, these misinformation campaigns signify one of the biggest barriers to the federal government motion science reveals is critical to mitigate the continuing local weather emergency.”

The letter is a part of a much bigger marketing campaign, known as Clean Creatives, that’s pushing inventive companies to maneuver away from fossil fuels. Launched simply over a 12 months in the past by the nonprofit Fossil Free Media, the marketing campaign has already satisfied greater than 200 PR and promoting companies to pledge to cease representing fossil clients. Round 700 individuals working at inventive companies—from copywriters to video producers to account executives—have additionally signed. “That quantity’s equally vital in some ways, as a result of these are of us who are actually organizing inside their companies to get them to take the pledge and transfer on this path,” says Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media.


Edelman, one of many largest public relations firms on the earth, not too long ago told employees that it might “put science and details first” when working with clients. In an inner assessment, the corporate seemed carefully at 20 “emissions-intensive” clients, although it hasn’t stated that it might drop these clients. (Edelman declined to remark.)

A recent study detailed among the ways in which PR firms have helped decelerate assist for local weather coverage. The PR company Ogilvy, for instance, created a marketing campaign for BP within the 12 months 2000 that popularized the concept of particular person “carbon footprints,” providing a web based calculator that individuals may use. The strategy “sought to divert consideration from the fossil fuel trade by reframing local weather change as a problem of particular person duty,” the examine authors wrote. Amongst different campaigns, PR companies additionally helped promote the time period clear coal, and branded pure gasoline as “clear burning,” although gasoline is a significant supply of emissions.

Campaigns have additionally focused scientists. “I’ve been on the receiving finish of assaults for many years funded by fossil fuel pursuits and facilitated by fossil-fuel-funded PR firms like Edelman,” says Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State College, who has written a number of books, together with 2021’s The New Climate War, which examines the decades-long campaigns waged by fossil fuel firms.

“I’ve been publicly vilified, skilled demise threats, confronted calls for that I be fired from my job,” Mann says, noting that these actions are the results of “PR firm-orchestrated character assaults.” He provides, “Till these PR firms refuse to work for fossil fuel firms, they’re a part of the issue, it doesn’t matter what greenwash campaigns they might interact in.”

The marketing campaign approaches have modified over time, Henn says, in the identical method that the tobacco trade’s messaging modified. “The fossil fuel trade has moved from outright denial to predatory delay,” he says. “So the entire technique is to persuade the general public, and by extension their representatives, that the fossil fuel trade is already working to unravel the local weather disaster, and that fossil fuels could be a part of the answer. They wish to delay the adoption of renewables by simply one other 12 months or two in order that they’ll proceed to revenue off of oil and gasoline.”