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Russell Jones looks at mistruth and climate change

I’m a big fan of cartoons, especially ones in newspapers, as I find that they are often cutting, poignant and can go straight to the heart of a matter.

Take the one from Fiona Katauska in the Guardian on 22 March 2024, where a new climate researcher is being shown around the Centre.

“This is where you get the latest updates,” explains his guide, pointing to a door marked ‘Data Centre’, before pointing at another door marked ‘Self-care for scientists’ saying “… and this is where you can go and scream into a pillow!”

And sometimes I think we all want to scream in frustration when we look around and see the slow pace of action on climate change.

For me, a major part of that apparent lack of urgency which completely fails to see the seriousness of the situation, is because of gaslighting and greenwashing from people who really should know better.

These are a dangerous distraction from the urgent, deep, real emission cuts that are needed to address the climate crisis

Russell Jones Russell Jones Content and communications manager

Gaslit with gas

The gas industry has had over 50 years of lobbying government and a recent report in the Guardian newspaper shows how it has recently been pressurising the government to delay a scheme designed to encourage and speed up the adoption of renewable heat pumps – thereby hastening the end of the gas boiler industry.

Under the headline ‘UK scheme to spur take-up of heat pumps delayed after gas lobby pressure’, the report details how the gas lobby has been pressing for a year’s delay before the introduction of the clean heat market mechanism.

This is a scheme that is seen as a vital boost to the ‘only viable option’ to decarbonise emissions from heating homes.

The government is now seeking industry views in a consultation proposal to adjust the start date of the scheme until 1 April 2025. Interested parties have until 9 May to submit their thoughts, so let’s hope common sense prevails and the scheme is brought in this year, rather than wasting any more time.

Spinning the story

Last summer the DeSmog website reported that there had been a media blitz against heat pumps funded by the gas lobby group.

DeSmog was set up to ‘clear the PR pollution that is clouding the science and solutions to climate change,’ so this is exactly the sort of behaviour they look to call out.

The report by Phoebe Cooke found that the attacks on heat pumps were designed to confuse consumers and have left the UK trailing far behind our European neighbours.

Her article found that the Energy and Utilities Association (EUA) had paid a public affairs firm to generate a barrage of negative press attacking heat pumps.

The campaign was deliberately designed to “spark outrage” around heat pumps and resulted in negative stories about heat pumps in newspapers such as The Sun, The Telegraph and The Express, with damning headlines rubbishing the technology and falsely calling it “costly and noisy”.

Carbon capturing the truth

Global oil giant, ExxonMobil (Esso’s parent company) has been directly accused of ‘greenwashing’ over claims about a carbon capture plan that it has so far failed to invest in.

The Guardian report highlights how the project has received no licence or government support.

The company’s eye-catching proposal was to trap carbon dioxide at a huge oil refinery and petrochemical site on the south coast and store it under the English Channel.

However, an investigation by Open Democracy shows that the project hasn’t received government support, and the company has never committed any of its own money to build it.

The article by Ben Webster, quotes Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK as saying that carbon capture and storage was hailed by the oil industry as a “miraculous silver bullet” but had failed to deliver.

“Carbon capture and storage does not appear to be much closer to reducing carbon emissions, or being affordable, than it did 20 years ago,” he said. “This scheme stands out as greenwashing.”

If this comes as a surprise, it really shouldn’t as SCIAM, or the Scientific American website has an article from October 2015 with the headline ‘Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago’.

A new investigation shows the oil company understood the science before it became a public issue and spent millions to promote misinformation.

Hot air about hydrogen

Last December, Amnesty International reported that a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists had attended the COP28 climate summit. You can bet that they weren’t at the event in United Arab emirates to promote renewables!

And Friends of the Earth have also been critical of the gas and oil lobby and their latest distraction which is the ‘promise’ of hydrogen racing to the rescue.

Under their positioning paper in November, titled: Don’t fall for the hydrogen energy hype!, Friends of the Earth set out to debunk the myths around hydrogen’s role.

The report states that “despite the colourful array on offer- from grey to pink to green hydrogen – in reality all types of hydrogen are expensive, inefficient and a long way off.

“Pushed by the same fossil industry that has caused – and continues to fuel – the climate crisis, hydrogen is yet another false solution, sold by the industry as a magical fix which allows business as usual to continue.

“Like other false solutions, it represents a dangerous distraction from the urgent, deep, real emission cuts that are needed to address the climate crisis.”

The truth is out there

We live in an age of ‘post truth’ where the air is deliberately filled with spurious and often downright dishonest stories from all parts of society.

Witness the outright lies that were told about Brexit or consider the Trump narrative that the last US election was ‘stolen’ from him, or our own politicians simply spouting ‘big numbers’ when they are trying to distract from the problems they helped bring about.

But facts and truth are still out there, and it is possible to find a way to rise above all the noise and gaslighting from unscrupulous players who are simply trying to make a quick buck or prolong their industry when it has long passed its sell-by date.

That’s why we set up The Hub and get our own and independent experts to talk around the issues affecting buildings and climate change.

In our own way, we are simply trying to put the facts out there so that people can make informed decisions, based on experienced opinion and evidence, rather than hype and emotion.

Russell Jones is content and communications manager