A climate poll on Twitter posted by Shell has backfired spectacularly, with the oil company accused of gaslighting the public.
The survey, posted on Tuesday morning, asked: “What are you willing to change to help reduce emissions?”
Though it received a modest 199 votes the tweet still went viral – but not for the reasons the company would have hoped. The US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one high-profile respondent, posting a tweet that was liked 350,000 times.
Greta Thunberg accused the company of “endless greenwash”, while the climate scientist Prof Katharine Hayhoe pointed out Shell’s huge contribution to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is heating the planet. Shell then hid her reply, she said.
I don’t know about you, but I sure am willing to call-out-the-fossil-fuel-companies-for-knowingly-destroying-future-living-conditions -for-countless-generations-for profit-and-then-trying-to-distract-people-and-prevent-real-systemic-change-through-endless greenwash-campaigns. https://t.co/O3ReJPv81Q
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 2, 2020
What am I willing to do? Hold you accountable for 2% of cumulative global GHG 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.
— Prof. Katharine Hayhoe (@KHayhoe) November 2, 2020
Another climate scientist, Peter Kalmus, was more direct, and said the company was gaslighting the public by suggesting individual actions could stop the climate crisis, rather than systemic change to the fossil fuel industry. Some Twitter users saw irony in this, while others asked if the company was “out of its mind”.
FUCK YOU for permanently destroying our planet and gaslighting us all the while. You had your chance to be part of the solution. Now we’re doing everything we can to put you out of business and send your executives to prison and we won’t stop. pic.twitter.com/Fmp61ceoOl
— Peter Kalmus (@ClimateHuman) November 2, 2020
Y’all put the gas in gaslighting
— Luke Schumann (@lukeaschumann) November 3, 2020
Are you out of your minds?? How about what are YOU doing about it? Act like it’s my personal actions rather than the people who have been lying, polluting, and blocking clean energy since before I was born. A$$holes.
— Sara (@sawalvea) November 3, 2020
Bill Weir, the chief climate correspondent at CNN, reached for a horror analogy and climate campaign groups also piled in.
In 2017, the Guardian revealed that a “confidential” Shell report in 1986 noted the large uncertainties in climate science at the time but nonetheless stated: “The changes may be the greatest in recorded history.”
A Shell film released in 1991 said: “Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance.”
However, the company’s recent investments in low-carbon energy have remained tiny compared with its fossil fuel investments. Its plan to become net carbon zero covers only about 65% of the emissions from the oil and gas it produces, according to Follow This, a group of more than 5,800 green shareholders in oil and gas companies.
The climate campaigner Jamie Henn said:
Shell’s pathetic attempt to shirk responsibility for the climate crisis is backfiring spectacularly on Twitter.
— Jamie Henn (@jamieclimate) November 2, 2020
Eight hours after the poll had launched, the company signed off its event sounding perhaps a little chastened.
Changing the energy system requires everyone to play their part. That’s what today’s #EnergyDebate was about. As for our part, we said last week that Shell will reshape its portfolio of assets and products to meet the cleaner energy needs of its customers in the coming decades.
— Shell (@Shell) November 2, 2020