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Climate change campaigners stage a naked demonstration at the offices of PR company Edelman, in Victoria, London, in protest against Edelman's PR work for energy company E.On on September 1, 2009.

Climate change campaigners stage a naked demonstration at the offices of PR company Edelman, in Victoria, London, in protest against Edelman's PR work for energy company E.On on September 1, 2009. (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)

450+ Climate Scientists Demand PR Industry Drop Fossil Fuel Clients

"To put it simply, advertising and public relations campaigns for fossil fuels must stop," states an open letter to ad agencies and major firms.

Andrea Germanos

In a new letter stressing the need for an "immediate and rapid transition" away from planet-heating fuels, a group of over 450 scientists on Wednesday called on public relations and advertising agencies to no longer work with fossil fuel clients.

"Greenwashing is a primary tactic in what I call the 'New War' on climate action and it must be called out for what it is—denial under another name."

"As scientists who study and communicate the realities of climate change," they wrote, "we are consistently faced with a major and needless challenge: overcoming advertising and PR efforts by fossil fuel companies that seek to obfuscate or downplay our data and the risks posed by the climate crisis."

"In fact," the scientists continued, "these misinformation campaigns represent one of the biggest barriers to the government action science shows is necessary to mitigate the ongoing climate emergency. "

Organized by scientists including Drs. Astrid Caldas, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, and Michael Mann, along with the Clean Creatives campaign and the Union of Concerned Scientists, the letter is being sent to a number of public relations and advertising agencies including Edelman—the world's biggest PR firm—and major clients of those companies including Amazon, Microsoft, and North Face.

"If PR and advertising agencies want to be part of climate solutions instead of continuing to exacerbate the climate emergency," the scientists wrote that those companies "should drop all fossil fuel clients that plan to expand their production of oil and gas, end work with all fossil fuel companies and trade groups that perpetuate climate deception, cease all work that hinders climate legislation, and instead focus on uplifting the true climate solutions that are already available and must be rapidly implemented at scale."

"To put it simply," the letter adds, "advertising and public relations campaigns for fossil fuels must stop."

Edelman has faced sustained criticism from climate advocates for its work with planet-polluting clients like ExxonMobil. Despite that pressure, the firm said earlier this month that, following an internal review, it was not dropping any of its fossil fuel clients, though it would take steps including establishing an outside council of climate experts to weigh in "on assignments and client situations of concern."

According to Clean Creatives campaign director Duncan Meisel, the plans fall far short of what the climate emergency demands.

"Edelman said that they will use the best available science to evaluate whether they will continue to work with fossil fuel clients," he said. "Well, here are 450 of the world's best scientists telling firms like Edelman that work needs to cease immediately. Edelman wants to confuse the issue, but these climate experts are crystal clear: there are no excuses for continuing to greenwash fossil fuel companies."

Dr. Caldas, senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, also denounced such "greenwashing" and other efforts by PR and ad firms that have "sabotaged climate action, even as the climate crisis worsens."

She said "it's clear the United States needs to sharply cut carbon pollution as soon as possible—by at least 50% this decade and reaching net-zero emissions preferably well before but no later than 2050—to contribute to global efforts to avoid the most dangerous climate change impacts. But the PR and advertising companies that abet the spread of climate disinformation are standing in the way."

Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, leveled similar criticism.

"We climate scientists have been trying to raise the climate crisis alarm for decades, but we've been drowned out by these fossil fuel industry-funded PR campaigns,” he said.

"Greenwashing is a primary tactic in what I call the 'New War’ on climate action," added Mann, "and it must be called out for what it is—denial under another name."


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