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Climate activists protest on the fist day of the ExxonMobil trial outside the New York State Supreme Court building on Oct. 22, 2019 in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images

On the heels of congressional Democrats calling the heads of fossil fuel companies and industry lobbying groups to testify about their role in spreading climate disinformation, campaigners published a report Tuesday exposing the contributions of major advertising and public relations firms.

The aim of Clean Creatives' report, as its introduction explains, was to "document the many known relationships between PR, advertising, and other creative agencies and fossil fuel companies that are responsible for climate change, and compare holding company pledges for climate action with their work for polluting clients."

On the heels of congressional Democrats calling the heads of fossil fuel companies and industry lobbying groups to testify about their role in spreading climate disinformation, campaigners published a report Tuesday exposing the contributions of major advertising and public relations firms.


The aim of Clean Creatives’ report, as its introduction explains, was to “document the many known relationships between PR, advertising, and other creative agencies and fossil fuel companies that are responsible for climate change, and compare holding company pledges for climate action with their work for polluting clients.”

Unveiled last year by the nonprofit Fossil Free Media, the Clean Creatives campaign pressures ad and PR agencies to ditch clients fueling the climate emergency.

“Fossil fuel companies are the biggest polluters, the biggest greenwashers, and the biggest opponents of life-saving climate action. There is no room for ad and PR professionals to continue promoting companies that are doing so much damage to our future,” said Clean Creatives director Duncan Meisel in a statement about the report, entitled The F-List 2021The F-List 2021.

“The most important step any agency can take to address the climate crisis is to rule out working with fossil fuel companies,” Meisel added. “We need creatives and communications experts to bring their full energy towards ending this crisis, not extending it.”

The report focuses on the work of 90 agencies across three different regions—Australia, Europe, and North America—and notes that “fossil fuel industry clients include the full range of corporations involved in the business of extracting, transporting, refining, and selling fossil fuels, their trade associations, and front groups representing their interests.”

In the United States, the fossil fuel companies have “expanded their efforts to oppose and water down major climate legislation under the Biden administration,” the report says. In Europe, they face a “stricter regulatory environment targeting their products, and a tightening space for their advertisements,” but “these measures have not stopped fossil interests—both in the business of extraction, and power generation—from attacking major proposals for climate action.”

In Australia, one of the world’s top exporters of gas and coal, “the influence of fossil fuel companies goes all the way to the top,” the report points out, “with Prime Minister Scott Morrison famously brandishing a lump of coal in parliament and holidaying in Hawaii as the country faced catastrophic bushfires.”

Belinda Noble, founder of Comms Declare, which co-authored the report, explained that “Australia is unique because three prime ministers have lost their jobs for trying to limit greenhouse gases.”

“With corporate giants continuing to pump tens of millions into sponsorships, PR, lobbying, and marketing every year,” she added, “it’s no wonder Australia has no net-zero commitment and is playing a wrecking role in international climate negotiations.”

The concept of net-zero emissions “has rapidly proliferated through corporate communications” since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015, and “the term has taken on even greater importance” going into this year’s COP 26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the report notes.

Defining what “net-zero” is and isn’t “will need to be a central focus of advertising and PR trade associations, regulators, and internal ethics watchdogs for agencies with fossil fuel clients,” the report says, warning of how it could be used for “a growing number of fossil fuel PR and ad campaigns, in a large and widespread greenwashing effort towards the end of 2021.”

The report features a chart showing which firms serve which fossil fuel clients, noting when an ad or PR agency is tied to a holding company. It also highlights conflicts between the polluter clients and sustainability pledges of major holding companies—WPP, Interpublic, Dentsu, Publicis, and Omnicom.

There are also three case studies, detailing:

  • Edelman’s work for ExxonMobil’s “Exxchange” platform;
  • Project Cesar, “an operation created by the firm Crosby Textor to astroturf support for coal projects, and oppose measures to address climate change in Australia,” revealed by The Guardian in 2019; and
  • the European Union’s greenwash of blue hydrogen.

“Exxon has become one of the top spenders on climate issues on Facebook, frequently sharing misleading statistics about proposed climate action, and encouraging users to ‘take action’ to stop them on their website Exxon Exxchange,” the report says, highlighting the key role of social media giants in the dissemination of climate disinformation.

ExxonMobil has faced heightened scrutiny for its efforts to influence U.S. politics in the wake of an exposé published earlier this summer. CEO Darren Woods is among those invited to appear before the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee next month for a hearing reminiscent of the 1990s congressional investigations into Big Tobacco.

If Woods—along with BP America CEO David Lawler, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, Shell president Gretchen Watkins, American Petroleum Institute (API) president Mike Sommers, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Suzanne Clark—refuse to testify or turn over materials to the House panel, Democrats may issue subpoenas.

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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"Beetles and springtails have enormous impacts on the porosity of soil and are really getting hammered, and earthworms are definitely getting hit as well," said study co-author Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. smaragd8 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Jessica Corbett

A study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science bolsters alarm about the role that agricultural pesticides play in what scientists have dubbed the "bugpocalypse" and led authors to call for stricter regulations across the U.S.

By Jessica Corbett

A study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science bolsters alarm about the role that agricultural pesticides play in what scientists have dubbed the “bugpocalypse” and led authors to call for stricter regulations across the U.S.


Researchers at the University of Maryland as well as the advocacy groups Friends of the Earth U.S. and the Center for Biological Diversity were behind what they say is “the largest, most comprehensive review of the impacts of agricultural pesticides on soil organisms ever conducted.”

The study’s authors warn the analyzed pesticides pose a grave danger to invertebrates that are essential for biodiversity, healthy soil, and carbon sequestration to fight the climate emergency — and U.S. regulators aren’t focused on these threats.

“Below the surface of fields covered with monoculture crops of corn and soybeans, pesticides are destroying the very foundations of the web of life,” said study co-author Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.

“Study after study indicates the unchecked use of pesticides across hundreds of millions of acres each year is poisoning the organisms critical to maintaining healthy soils,” Donley added. “Yet our regulators have been ignoring the harm to these important ecosystems for decades.”

As the paper details, the researchers reviewed nearly 400 studies “on the effects of pesticides on non-target invertebrates that have egg, larval, or immature development in the soil,” including ants, beetles, ground-nesting bees, and earthworms. They looked at 275 unique species, taxa, or combined taxa of soil organisms and 284 different pesticide active ingredients or unique mixtures.

“We found that 70.5% of tested parameters showed negative effects,” the paper says, “whereas 1.4% and 28.1% of tested parameters showed positive or no significant effects from pesticide exposure, respectively.”

Donley told The Guardian that “the level of harm we’re seeing is much greater than I thought it would be. Soils are incredibly important. But how pesticides can harm soil invertebrates gets a lot less coverage than pollinators, mammals, and birds — it’s incredibly important that changes.”

“Beetles and springtails have enormous impacts on the porosity of soil and are really getting hammered, and earthworms are definitely getting hit as well,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that most bees nest in the soil, so that’s a major pathway of exposure for them.”

Underscoring the need for sweeping changes, Donley noted that “it’s not just one or two pesticides that are causing harm, the results are really very consistent across the whole class of chemical poisons.”

Buglife on Twitter

Co-author Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, concurred that “it’s extremely concerning that over 70% of cases show that pesticides significantly harm soil invertebrates.”

“Our results add to the evidence that pesticides are contributing to widespread declines of insects, like beneficial predaceous beetles, and pollinating solitary bees,” she said in a statement. “These troubling findings add to the urgency of reining in pesticide use to save biodiversity.”

In December, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations released a report emphasizing how vital soil organisms are to food production and battling the climate crisis — and highlighting that such creatures and the threats they face are not being paid adequate attention on a global scale.

“Soils are not only the foundation of agri-food systems and where 95% of the foods we eat is produced, but their health and biodiversity are also central to our efforts to end hunger and achieve sustainable agri-food systems,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said at the time, pushing for increased efforts to protect the “silent, dedicated heroes” that are soil organisms.

A growing body of research has also revealed the extent of insect loss in recent decades, with a major assessment last year showing that there has been a nearly 25% decrease of land-dwelling bugs like ants, butterflies, and grasshoppers over the past 30 years. The experts behind that analysis pointed to not only pesticides but also habitat loss and light pollution.

In January, a collection of scientific papers warned that “insects are suffering from ‘death by a thousand cuts,'” and called on policymakers around the world to urgently address the issue. That call followed a roadmap released the previous January by 73 scientists outlining what steps are needed to tackle the “insect apocalypse.”

The roadmap’s key recommendations included curbing planet-heating emissions; limiting light, water, and noise pollution; preventing the introduction of invasive and alien species; and cutting back on the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

“We know that farming practices such as cover cropping and composting build healthy soil ecosystems and reduce the need for pesticides in the first place,” Aditi Dubey of University of Maryland, who co-authored the new study, said Tuesday. “However, our farm policies continue to prop up a pesticide-intensive food system.”

“Our results highlight the need for policies that support farmers to adopt ecological farming methods that help biodiversity flourish both in the soil and above ground,” Dubey declared.

While the solutions are clear, according to the researchers, the chemical industry is standing in the way.

“Pesticide companies are continually trying to greenwash their products, arguing for the use of pesticides in ‘regenerative’ or ‘climate-smart’ agriculture,” said co-author Kendra Klein, a senior scientist at Friends of the Earth. “This research shatters that notion and demonstrates that pesticide reduction must be a key part of combating climate change in agriculture.”

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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