They talk about energy demand, they talk about need, they talk about use, and they use the term 'consumers.' And this is basically a way of shifting responsibility away from the producers — that is to say them, ExxonMobil — and onto the consumer. — Science historian Naomi Oreskes
They talk about energy demand, they talk about need, they talk about use, and they use the term 'consumers.' And this is basically a way of shifting responsibility away from the producers — that is to say them, ExxonMobil — and onto the consumer. — Science historian Naomi Oreskes

Just about everybody understands that we need to do something about plastic. ... most companies — and many politicians are still thinking in this personal-responsibility frame and putting the emphasis on individual consumers. And so that really keeps the conversation focused on solutions that can't solve the problem. — John Hocevar, a marine biologist who leads Greenpeace's oceans campaigns
Just about everybody understands that we need to do something about plastic. ... most companies — and many politicians are still thinking in this personal-responsibility frame and putting the emphasis on individual consumers. And so that really keeps the conversation focused on solutions that can't solve the problem. — John Hocevar, a marine biologist who leads Greenpeace's oceans campaigns

The companies polluting the planet have spent millions to make you think carpooling and recycling will save us
  • Plastics companies spent millions to kickstart recycling programs, and it helped them avoid bans.
  • Decades later, fossil-fuel interests spend millions to promote carpooling and reducing energy use.
  • Activists and researchers say this individual-action narrative distracts from the biggest polluters.
Ben Franta is trying to collect every climate-related ad the oil and gas industry has ever produced.

Franta, who is pursuing a law degree and PhD at Stanford, is among a small cohort of researchers who track fossil-fuel industry propaganda. These historians, social scientists, and activists have documented the extent to which major oil companies knew their products were changing the climate as early as the 1960s, and how they poured tens of millions of dollars into sowing doubt about the science through the 1990s.

"Not to get too tin-hat-y, but once you start to see these ads over and over again, you see the common elements arise," Franta told Insider.

So it was clear to him that around the year 2000, fossil-fuel companies changed marketing tactics. After decades of denial, they pivoted to blaming the climate crisis on you and me.

... This approach — telling people to solve a crisis by changing their own habits — is a tried and true corporate tactic, pioneered by the tobacco and plastics industries. Now, fossil-fuel giants like Chevron, BP, and ExxonMobil have spent millions to convince the public that consumer choices and lifestyle changes will solve the problem.

"It's almost become natural, when people think about the climate crisis, to think of individual action," Denali Nalamalapu, a communications specialist for the climate organization 350.org, told Insider. "Which is super convenient for fossil-fuel corporations."

But at this point, personal lifestyle changes will not turn the climate crisis around. A report from the International Energy Agency, which lays out a path to a net-zero-emissions energy system by 2050, estimates that individual behavioral changes would only account for about 4% of the necessary reductions.

To have even a 50% chance of stopping the world's temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a study published this month, 90% of coal and 60% of oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground.

... Microplastics — fragments smaller than a fingernail that never fully break down — have been found in the Mariana Trench and at the top of Mount Everest. The average American ingests about 50,000 microplastic particles each year and inhales about the same amount.

Plastic production is expected to double by 2040 and triple by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum.

"Just about everybody understands that we need to do something about plastic," Hocevar said. "The challenge is that many companies — well, most companies — and many politicians are still thinking in this personal-responsibility frame and putting the emphasis on individual consumers. And so that really keeps the conversation focused on solutions that can't solve the problem."

Exxon was on the council that led the charge for recycling, and it soon started promoting personal-responsibility solutions to another crisis: global warming.

"Be smart about electricity use," suggested a 2007 ad from the company (now ExxonMobil). "Heat and cool your home efficiently." "Improve your gas mileage."

Science historian Naomi Oreskes has studied ExxonMobil's climate communications for years.

"They talk about energy demand, they talk about need, they talk about use, and they use the term 'consumers.' And this is basically a way of shifting responsibility away from the producers — that is to say them, ExxonMobil — and onto the consumer," Oreskes told Insider.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/fossil-fuel-companies-spend-millions-to-promote-individual-responsibility-2021-3