Climate Delay Is the New Climate Denial

The industry that has denied climate change for decades now has a new tactic.

An Extinction Rebellion activist holds a placard ahead of a die-in in London, England. The demonstrators draw attention to the climate and ecological emergency ahead of the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow in November (Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

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From the industry that has denied climate change for decades, now comes a new tactic: “climate delay.” Some of the world’s biggest oil companies now appear to be ditching climate denial in favor of posing as enthusiastic backers of climate solutions. Left unsaid is that their “solutions” do nothing to alter the industry’s business model. A skeptic might say they’re kicking the (oil) can down the road. 

The Guardian explored this unwholesome development in an article published today as part of the “Climate Crimes” series the paper is running in collaboration with Covering Climate Now. (All CCNow partners are invited to republish the piece.) Now that outright climate denial has become untenable, researchers have detected a subtle but seismic shift in the fossil fuel industry’s PR and advertising communications. Scholars identified four types of “discourses of delay.” Each appears designed to give the impression that oil and gas companies care about nothing so much as helping humanity solve the climate crisis—never mind that they, more than anyone, brought this crisis about. 

Let’s not be fooled by this latest twist in fossil fuel companies’ decades-long campaign to mislead the public. Many news organizations fell for—indeed, were conduits for—the industry’s climate change deceptions dating back to the early 1990s. This time, let’s expose the trickery and hold the industry accountable.

In entirely related news, Rupert Murdoch’s Australian media outlets, after years of peddling climate disinformation, are also reportedly planning to turn over a new leaf. According to The New York Times, Murdoch’s Australian outlets will launch an editorial campaign in October calling for a carbon neutral economy by 2050. 

Many, including Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, are skeptical that this is anything more than an attempt to maintain the status quo. “Focusing on a target of 2050, three decades away, kicks the can so far down the road that it’s largely meaningless,” Mann said. “It allows the cynics to appeal to promises of new technology (carbon capture, geoengineering, etc.) decades down the road as a crutch for continuing business-as-usual fossil fuel burning.” 

The editorial campaign at Murdoch’s Australian outlets kicks off next month. We’ll be watching, skeptically.

FROM US

The climate connection, made easy. Evidence of climate change is all around us, but too often climate is absent from extreme weather reporting, as CCNow executive director Mark Hertsgaard writes in a recent Guardian column. See our new handy guide to help inform your coverage. Print it out to reference, email it to colleagues, share it with everyone in your newsroom. Check it out…

PRESS BRIEFING, Countdown to COP26: What’s at Stake? It’s not too early to start orienting audiences to the all-important COP26 global climate summit this November. To get yourself up to speed, join CCNow on September 15, from 12 to 1 p.m. US Eastern Time for a discussion about the science and politics behind the conference, as well as all that’s at stake. Learn more and RSVP now…

ESSENTIAL NEWS

Calls to Delay. Activists have called on the UN to delay the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this November, saying that vaccine equity and prohibitively high costs to quarantine once people have arrived in Glasgow could exclude the Global South. COP26 president Alok Sharma said the talks must go on as planned. From Reuters…

Go solar! Solar energy could account for 40% of US energy by 2035, representing a rise from 3% today, according to a new report from the Department of Energy. The study outlines how the Biden administration could achieve the goal of decarbonizing the electricity sector by 2035. Whether that can happen depends on the fate of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. From CNN…

Chronic disaster mode. This summer, one in three people in the US experienced a climate-related weather disaster, an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post shows. If nothing changes, this is only the beginning. From The Washington Post… 

In the ground. A new scientific study finds that the majority of fossil fuels must stay in the ground to stem the climate crisis. The assessment finds a major disconnect between the Paris goals and the fossil fuel industry’s expansion plans. From the Guardian…

Maybe there is no ‘waking up.’ In a passionate and clear-eyed op-ed, veteran climate reporter Jeff Goodell posits that after the last few months of unrelenting climate crises that should have “woken us up,” no such realization and reversal seem to be coming. If a cascade of fires, floods, heat deaths, Covid deaths, and hurricanes can’t move us to collective action, what can? From Rolling Stone…

REPUBLICATION RECOMMENDATIONS

The following story deserves special consideration for republication by CCNow partners:

Big oil’s delay tactics are the new climate science denialism – From the Guardian’s & CCNow’s “Climate Crimes” series

For partner outlets: To submit stories for sharing, please use this form. Instructions for republishing and the full list of stories available for republication can be found in our Sharing Library.

ODDS & ENDS

Food and Farming in a Warming World. What does the IPCC’s latest report mean for agriculture and food production? On September 15th from 1 to 2 p.m. US Eastern Time SEJ will hold a webinar with policymakers, experts, and journalists to discuss questions, science, and story ideas ahead of the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit later in the month. RSVP here…

Coverage opportunity. On September 13, Global Witness will release a new report on murders last year of people, usually representing Indigenous populations, who were defending land from mining, logging, and agribusiness. The report will also detail how multinational companies and financiers are sometimes complicit in these murders and the criminalization of activism in the Global South. For an embargoed copy of the report, email Wanda Bautista of Burness communications… 

Mental health study. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma is conducting a study to better understand the unique toll that reporting on environmental issues can have on reporters’ mental health. Environmental journalists living in the US are invited to fill out the anonymous survey, which takes about 20-25 minutes to complete. Learn more…

Jobs. Politico is looking for an energy reporter. The 19th is hiring a climate & sustainability reporter. The New York Times seeks a climate newsletter writer and reporter. The Boston Globe is recruiting a web producer for its climate desk. Reuters is looking for a chief energy correspondent for the Middle East. And Grist has an opening for a reporter

Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

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