We Can Stop The Fossil-Fueled Disinformation Pipeline

We Can Stop The Fossil-Fueled Disinformation Pipeline

We Can Stop The Fossil-Fueled Disinformation Pipeline

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As we approach the world’s largest election cycle, the spread of disinformation is at the forefront of lawmakers’ and activists’ minds. Some believe that we’re less prepared to handle disinformation than we were 4 years ago. With the rise of right-wing extremism across the world, and the nefarious manipulation of artificial intelligence, we need action now more than ever.

This is particularly true of climate mis- and disinformation. Over the past few years, fossil-fueled pundits and conspiracy theorists have sowed lies about the climate crisis and climate solutions through social media. Additionally, oil and gas companies aren’t held accountable for the misleading and false advertising they’re spreading across influential platforms like Meta, YouTube and TikTok.

Fortunately, on World Environment Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a pivotal speech that called for countries to ban fossil fuel advertising, similar to how tobacco advertising has been handled. He also called for advertising companies to drop fossil fuel industry clients and urged media and tech companies to stop accepting Big Oil advertising.

Additionally, the UN launched its Global Principles for Informational Integrity. The principles discuss the vital need for a robust information ecosystem to protect democracy, and urged governments, tech companies, and advertisers to stop perpetuating the spread and monetization of content that results in harm. Additionally, they called on Big Tech to scope business models that don’t rely on false advertising, and provide full transparency that doesn’t fund disinformation and hate speech.

Why does this matter?

The Climate Action Against Disinformation Coalition (CAAD), composed of dozens of climate and tech accountability groups, has worked for years to light a fire under companies like Google, TikTok and Meta to press them to strengthen their policies. Additionally, we’ve encouraged lawmakers to require basic transparency and accountability from Big Tech. While the United Nations isn’t a lawmaking body, they hold considerable influence over public discourse and can support public pressure campaigns against global corporations.

While election-specific disinformation is at the forefront of many people’s minds, disinformation on the climate is also on the ticket. The GOP, who may lead the U.S. government within the year, is full of climate denialism. This kind of denialism has jeopardized global climate policy negotiations time and time again, and has the potential to set back climate action if we accept it. 

Thankfully, SCOTUS recently ruled in Murthy v. Missouri that the government is within its right to request that Big Tech removes disinformation from their platforms. The ruling shows that right-wing attempts to silence climate scientists and activists are failing. Furthermore, those in power have the court-mandated ability to speak out against climate lies on social media.

What do we do now?

The vast majority of the world’s population wants strong action to stop climate change, but tech companies are tearing apart the basic communications infrastructure we need to honor those goals. Big Tech is favoring fossil fuel interests and the radical few, not the global majority who want climate action. The world needs a healthy information environment, one where lies aren’t artificially amplified and where there aren’t financial incentives to spread disinformation.

The CAAD coalition has mapped out some clear policy demands for both tech companies and government bodies to follow, including calls to:

  • Produce a transparent company plan to stop the spread of climate disinformation, greenwashing, hate speech, and content that jeopardizes public health and security;
  • Prevent the monetisation of climate disinformation through advertisements and search, including greenwashing;
  • Report annually on the prevalence of coordinated climate disinformation influence operations and fossil fuel industry-sponsored disinformation efforts.

From CAAD to the UN, Big Tech and governing countries have a roadmap to reduce climate disinformation. Now, for the sake of our planet, they need to follow it.

The Top False Climate Arguments To Look Out For

As voters head to the polls, it’s imperative that they’re aware of the arguments used by candidates and the fossil fuel companies who line their pockets. Below are a few of the most prevalent arguments to look out for on social media and in advertisements.

“Climate change and global warming don’t exist, and even if they did, it’s not caused by human activity.”

Many candidates have implied that there’s scientific doubt or insufficient proof for climate change – especially man-made climate change. However, more than 99% of scientists agree that human activity is overheating the planet. We must vote for candidates who are grounded in reality.

“Renewable energy is too expensive, inefficient and/or unreliable.”

Renewable energy is under attack, often backed by the oil and gas industry as well as the candidates they pay. In reality, solar energy often costs less than oil and gas. There is plenty of renewable energy disinformation, from the local to federal level, that attacks the integrity of renewable energy and argues for more fossil fuel support. We need people on every level of government who explicitly support renewable energy projects and explicitly oppose propping up Big Oil.

“Fossil fuel expansion is necessary because our economy and society can’t survive without oil and gas.”

You may hear arguments that we can’t transition away from fossil fuels because they’re essential to economic growth – and, for the sake of energy independence, we need more. However, the Republicans and Democrats who support this argument are taking large donations from oil and gas companies. The renewable energy economy is providing states with jobs, often outpacing U.S. employment rates over all, and profitable global investments in clean energy are clearly on the rise. The solution to energy independence is not more drillingthe solution is a fossil fuel phaseout to reduce emissions, protect public health and protect the planet.

“Climate action is part of a ‘woke’ plot to restrict freedoms and hurt economic growth.”

There have been many attacks on policies like ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investing. More specifically, some candidates are trying to argue that ESG policies will negatively impact businesses and unfairly push liberal ideologies onto investors. In reality, people have the right to choose how they spend and invest responsibly, and consumers have been choosing ESG investments for decades. We need to elect candidates who believe in the free market, and who hold companies accountable for their impact on the planet.

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