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UN climate panel raises climate alarms

August 11, 2021

The New Yorker:

We all live in two worlds: a physical one and a social one. The new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released on Monday, is ostensibly about the physical world. It states—even more clearly and forcefully than it has stated in all its reports back to 1995—that humans are wrecking that physical world. Setting it on fire.

But precisely because none of that is news, especially after the climate events of this northern-hemisphere summer, the most interesting question about the report is its effect on the social world. It’s clearly designed to goose us into action, preferably over the eighty days remaining until the world convenes at the Glasgow climate conference, and so it has been met with coördinated calls for urgent action from the obvious players: the Secretary-General of the United Nations (“code red for humanity”), America’s climate envoy, John Kerry (“overwhelming urgency”), and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will be a host at the Scottish conclave (“wake-up call”). But those reactions are not the only voices. Earlier this month, the think tank InfluenceMap released a report on a hard-to-track shadow side of our social world: twenty-five fossil-fuel companies (led by Exxon) put out a series of ads on Facebook that were viewed four hundred and thirty-one million times in 2020 alone.

The report states, “The ads promoted either the climate-friendliness of the industry, including voluntary targets, investments into renewables, and promoting fossil gas as green, or promoted an ongoing role for oil and gas in the energy mix. Many of these ads either contained misleading content or present information that was misaligned with the science of climate change according to both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s and the International Energy Agency’s reports on reaching net zero by 2050.” These are ads that explain how drilling for more gas is somehow key to stabilizing the planet’s temperature, or that a company’s tiny research into some niche renewable-energy source somehow offsets its core business. They are increasingly subtle and effective, and every bit as dangerous as the more blatant climate denial from which they descend.

[Bill McKibben] 

More: The U.N. climate panel tries to cut through the smog

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