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Climate Change

“Thank You, Big Oil” Campaign Targets Fossil Fuel Companies

Fossil Free Media has created a campaign that uses billboards to drive home the message that burning fossil fuels leads to global heating.

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This week, drivers traveling on highways in Phoenix, Austin, and Fresno will see prominent billboards displaying a map of record-breaking temperatures that have been recorded across the US this summer. Fresno drivers will be reminded of a 109°F day in their city while those in Phoenix will see 117°F plastered over their hometown on the map, accompanied by the words, “Brought to you by Big Oil” and

The billboards are part of the Stop the Oil Profiteering campaign initiated by Fossil Free Media, a group that seeks to educate the public about the role fossil fuel companies have played in making 2023 the hottest year on record. At this very moment, nearly a third of all Americans are set to experience record high temperatures all across the country.

“The fossil fuel industry has known for decades that their products are fueling climate change and extreme weather, yet they have failed to act,” says the Fossil Free Media website. “Instead, major oil and gas companies continue to invest billions into new projects that lock in decades more fossil fuel extraction while our communities take the heat… literally.”

Jamie Henn, director of the organization, said on social media that the public “needs to understand that this summer’s brutal heatwave was brought to you by Big Oil.” Henn is a US climate activist who is the founder and director of Fossil Free Media, a nonprofit media lab that supports the movement to end fossil fuels. Fossil Free Media is the home of Clean Creatives, a campaign pressuring public relations and advertising companies to quit working with fossil fuel companies.

Fossil Fuel & Heat

Republicans don’t believe human activity is responsible for the massive heat waves that have swept across North America, Europe, and China this year. They think sunspots are the cause or maybe Democrats running child pornography rings out of the back of pizza restaurants. Many believe the massive forest fires that swept across much of North America this summer were deliberately set by socialist activists with boxes of kitchen matches at the ready. They always demand, “Where’s the proof?”

Here it is. A study released in July by World Weather Attribution found that extreme heat in North America, Europe, and China in July 2023 was made much more likely by climate change. Among its findings are these:

  • In all the regions a heatwave of the same likelihood as the one observed today would have been significantly cooler in a world without climate change. Similar to previous studies we found that the heatwaves defined above are 2.5°C warmer in Southern Europe, 2°C warmer in North America and about 1°C in China in today’s climate than they would have been if it was not for human induced climate change.
  • Unless the world rapidly stops burning fossil fuels, these events will become even more common and the world will experience heatwaves that are even hotter and longer-lasting. A heatwave like the recent ones would occur every 2-5 years in a world that is 2°C warmer than the pre-industrial climate.

“The result of this attribution study is not surprising. The world hasn’t stopped burning fossil fuels, the climate continues to warm, and heatwaves continue to become more extreme. It is that simple,” said Friederike Otto, a co-author of the study and a senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Top $1 Trillion

Here’s the thing, people. Not only is the Earth getting hotter, the rate of increase is exponential, not linear. We are in that part of the “hockey stick” chart made famous — or infamous — by Al Gore in his movie An Inconvenient Truth. We aren’t talking about an existential climate crisis happening in two or three hundred years anymore. We are talking about most humans being unable to survive on Earth in a few decades.

And yet, governments continue to subsidize fossil fuel companies. According to the International Institute For Sustainable Development, the amount of public money flowing into coal, oil, and gas in 20 of the world’s biggest economies reached a record $1.4 trillion in 2022, even though world leaders agreed to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow two years ago.

The report comes ahead of a meeting of G20 countries in Delhi next month that could set the tone for the COP28 conference in the United Arab Emirates this November. “It is crucial that leaders put fossil fuel subsidies on the agenda” Tara Laan, a senior associate at IISD and lead author of the study, told The Guardian. “These figures are a stark reminder of the massive amounts of public money G20 governments continue to pour into fossil fuels, despite the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change.”

The report found G20 governments last year provided fossil fuels $1 trillion in subsidies, $322 billion in investments by state owned enterprises, and $50 billion in loans from public finance institutions. The total amount was more than double what was provided in 2019, the authors found, even though the fossil fuel industry reported historically high profits in 2022, thanks in large measure to disruptions in the marketplace created by the invasion of Ukraine.

In June, a report from the World Bank found that “by underpricing fossil fuels, governments not only incentivize overuse, but also perpetuate inefficient polluting technologies and entrench inequality.” Richard Damania, chief economist of a sustainability group at the World Bank and lead author of the report, said, “By re-purposing wasteful subsidies, we can free up significant sums that could instead be used to address some of the planet’s most pressing challenge. Governments should prioritize reforms that build public acceptance, protect the most vulnerable, and show how the money is being spent to meaningfully improve people’s lives.”

The IISD is calling on the world leaders who assemble at the upcoming G20 conference to end fossil fuel subsidies in rich countries by 2025 and in the rest of the world by 2030. “With fossil fuel companies gaining record profits amid the energy crisis last year, there is little incentive for them to change their business models in line with what’s needed to limit global warming,” said Laan. “But governments have the power to push them in the right direction.”

The Takeaway

Our political leaders know how to dramatically reduce pollution from burning fossil fuels — put an appropriate price on carbon and methane emissions. Allowing polluters to avoid paying for the damage they do invites abuse of the environment. “But it’s too expensive!” people cry. To which we say, “How much is a sustainable worth to you?”

Back when I was young and foolish and rode motorcycles, I asked a friend for advice on which helmet to buy. I was trying to keep the cost down. “How much is your head worth?” he asked me. That was an excellent way of clarifying things for me. I wound up spending more than I wanted to and never once regretted it.

Making good choices is easy. Making good choices that go against your economic interest is hard. If we change the economic equation to put a higher value on a planet that can support human life as we know it, making good climate choices would become infinitely easier. We can start by eliminating those subsidies to fossil fuel companies.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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