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On Twitter, fossil fuel companies’ climate misinformation is subtle – here’s what I’m seeing during COP26

On Twitter, fossil fuel companies’ climate misinformation is subtle – here’s what I’m seeing during COP26

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When oil and gas companies took to Twitter during the first half of the U.N.’s Glasgow climate conference, they often presented themselves as part of the solution to climate change and talked about energy security.

Their messaging on social media is a window into the future that these companies want to show the public.

For example, while policymakers talk about a “low-carbon economy” – indicating that while there will be carbon in our lives, it will be as low as it can be – the tweets from some oil and gas accounts instead use the phrase “lower carbon.” A “lower carbon” economy is a far more nebulous goal that can involve continuing significant levels of fossil fuel useYou can count on it for the future.

These companies’ social media presence is not their real face. many of which have lobbyists at the climate conference. Behind the scenes, the industry continues its work invest in extractingIt is fossil fuels that are driving climate changes, and its CEOs have made it clear that fossil energy production will continue. continue for decades to come.

Misdirection of fossil fuel industry

2015 was the year that a colleague and i first looked into key factors. fossil fuel trade groups were saying on Twitter about climate solutions during the landmark COP21 summit in Paris, we found they were largely promoting a narrative that the Obama administration’s climate policies lacked domestic support – despite public opinion researchIf you indicate otherwise.

This time, we will use the consumer insight software BrandwatchI looked at recent English-language Twitters. top oil, gas and coal producers globallyCOP26, American Petroleum Institute and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Four executives from four oil companies, API, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were present grilled by members of the House Committee on Oversight and ReformOctober 28, 2021 about their role in spreading misinformation about climate change

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From Oct. 31 to November 8, 2021, Twitter posts by trade groups and fossil fuel companies focused on the energy that they provide.
Jill Hopke. CC BY-ND
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Comparable to the fossil fuels sector, businesses and business leaders who have signed onto net zero campaigns like the Climate Pledge or Race to Zero talked in COP26 Tweets from Oct. 31 to November 8 mainly about their commitments to climate change action.
Jill Hopke. CC BY-ND

The corporate accounts today present themselves as part of the solution – for example, talking aboutRenewable energy and electric vehicles charging infrastructure. Low-carbon projects can only be a small part of the oil companies’ portfoliosHowever, it is possible. These same companies also fuelled the problem while knowing the risks.

This subtle form of misinformationWhich scholars? have called “fossil fuel solutionism,” involves cherry-picking data and talking points.

For example, a BP tweet saying that reducing methane emissions is key to “slowing the rate of warming” omits an important point. While it is important to address methane leakage from fossil fuel infrastructure, it is not the only thing that is fundamental. shift awayIt is crucial to avoid fossil fuels.

According to the International Energy Agency, upstream oil and natural gas investment will increase. increase by about 10% this year, though not to pre-pandemic levels, while clean energy investments remain “far short of what will be required to avoid severe impacts from climate change.”

The American Petroleum Institute has been posting on the themes of American-made, affordable energy and concern about gas prices. also claiming that restricting oil and gas drilling on federal land “would be counterproductive to our shared goal of reducing emissions.” API’s argumentThe idea is that restrictions could increase coal use and foreign imports.

Multiple posts employ a subtle shift in language to talk about technological innovation and energy transition in terms of “lower carbon,” rather than the more commonly heard discourse on “low carbon.” This shift appears to be recent. The theme was popular in the past. in discussions of natural gas as a “bridge fuel.”

The black box in digital advertising

These accounts are only one piece of the industry’s social media ecosystem. Oil and gas have a much larger paid advertising footprint. It is also difficult to track, particularly in rural areas. on Twitter.

According to research from the non-profit think tank InfluenceMap the industry is growing deploys Facebook adsAt key political moments. In the run-up to the Congressional Hearing with the oil CEOs, and the recent elections on Oct. 16-22, 2021 ExxonMobil spent$565,099 for Facebook ads targeting U.S. users

Molly Taft, a climate journalist, and Emily Atkin, a climate journalist, found the lower-carbon themeRecent political newsletters include fossil fuel advertising.

ExxonMobil, for example, is involved in the U.N. Climate Conference. sponsoring the political news site The Hill’s energy and environment newsletter, along withAmerican Petroleum Institute. Some researchers refer to that as “fossil fuel corporate propaganda.” This amounts to a strategy to enhance corporate legitimacy while at the same time downplay the need for government regulation.

Part of a larger problem

The structure of online social media networks is characterized byEcho chambers and polarization that allow misleading climate content to spread.

A tweet that attracted a lot attention at the start of COP26 is an example. It was a postBen Shapiro, conservative commentator, contains a logical fallacy in attempting to discredit the U.N.‘s climate work. Shapiro came third for average reach in week one of the summit. This was based on a sample climate change tweets.

Social media companies have been scrutinized for spreading misinformation about a variety of topics, including climate change.

In one analysis of Facebook pagesStop Funding Heat discovered nearly 39,000 misinformation-laden posts on 195 pages associated with climate misinformation in eight months. It also found a 76.7% increase in people interacting with those pages compared to the previous year, suggesting Facebook’s algorithm was sharing the content widely.

Take a cue from climate disinformation researchers, Twitter launched what it calls “pre-bunks” – sending accurate messages out in search, explore and trends lists. But it didn’t plan to stop people and botsPosting climate misinformation or labeling it as such. Twitter claims that climate change was mentioned in the first ten months of 2021 40 million timesOn its channels.

Continue reading:
What Big Oil knew about climate change, in its own words

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