Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday denounced the "audacity" of oil giant Shell after it waded into the global discussion about the climate crisis by asking members of the public what they would do to reduce carbon emissions.
"I'm willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet," the New York Democrat and co-sponsor of the Green New Deal legislation replied.
I’m willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet https://t.co/ekj1Va1Cp0
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 2, 2020
In the poll it posted to Twitter, Shell offered choices to the public including "stop flying," "buy an electric vehicle," and shifting to renewable electricity.
What are you willing to change to help reduce emissions? #EnergyDebate
— Shell (@Shell) November 2, 2020
Coming from the world's third-largest company, which knew as early as 1988 that its extraction of oil and gas was linked to the heating of the planet, the question was seen by Ocasio-Cortez and other critics as a gross deflection of Shell's own responsibility.
"The audacity of Shell asking YOU what YOU'RE willing to do to reduce emissions," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "They're showing you RIGHT HERE how the suggestion that individual choices—not systems—are a main driver of climate change is a fossil fuel talking point."
The "good choices" American voters and lawmakers can make, the congresswoman added, are ones that will help "reign in fossil fuel corporations" that are actually fueling the destruction of the planet.
The journalism initiative Covering Climate Now called Shell's tweet "a textbook example of greenwashing."
Here’s a textbook example of “greenwashing” + corporations making it seem like climate change is a symptom of everyday people's inaction. Journalists beware! https://t.co/soZtQK8QGQ
— Covering Climate Now (@CoveringClimate) November 2, 2020
Prof. Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Texas Tech Climate Center, echoed Ocasio-Cortez's disgust at the company as she noted that out of 90 companies in the world, Shell is the sixth-highest contributor to fossil fuel emissions in history.
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"Yes, everyone must do their part—starting with the biggest emitters," Hayhoe tweeted, adding that the company has previously publicly suggested that individuals making changes to their daily habits is what will help save the planet.
Despite what the CEO of Shell claimed in 2019, eating food that's in season, avoiding fast fashion and recycling ISN'T GOING TO CUT IT when it comes to stabilizing climate change. Those actions will make no more than the tiniest of dents. https://t.co/VsnrVFBGgZ
— Prof. Katharine Hayhoe (@KHayhoe) November 2, 2020
Shell's tweet drew outrage from international climate action group Greenpeace, international lawmakers, and climate experts.
All this corporate BS over who is responsible for climate change. It's them, folks.
As @KHayhoe pointed out, Shell is #6 of 90 companies responsible for 2/3 of greenhouse gas emissions
— Leah Stokes (@leahstokes) November 2, 2020
You polluted our planet, you funded climate change deniers, you fund the lobby to slow down climate protection laws and you still invest massive into fossils. But you're asking us to help reducing emissions?
— Michael Bloss (@micha_bloss) November 2, 2020
We’re willing to fight for climate justice and for people not to fall for your dirty tricks, @Shell. Individual choices matter, but you and the other fossil fuel companies are the ones responsible for the climate crisis the world is facing right now https://t.co/gkwhNat4QV
— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) November 2, 2020
"What am I willing to do?" Hayhoe wrote in reply to Shell's poll question, which she later said was hidden on Twitter by the company. "Hold you accountable for 2% of cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to those of my entire home country of Canada. When you have a concrete plan to address that, I'd be happy to chat about what I'm doing to reduce my personal emissions."