Advertising

TO WHAT EXTENT IS IT FUELING CLIMATE BREAKDOWN?

It’s well understood that the ever increasing demand for goods and services is fueling climate breakdown. Yet despite this advertisers go to extreme expense to convince us to spend more and more. That’s why activists and campaigners of all kinds are heaping pressure on the advertising industry (and the biggest polluters) to clean up their act. Dermot McNally investigates.

LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Firstly a new initiative dubbed the Ministry for the Climate Emergency is seeking to tackle the advertising industry’s lack of accountability for it’s role in climate breakdown. The campaign itself singles out fossil fuel companies and resource intense lifestyles specifically, and adverts feature a health warning explaining the dangers of “brain pollution”. As well as adverts which have gone viral on social media, the campaign involves protests outside the offices of major advertising agencies (whose clients include Chevron, Texaco, BP etc). It can be all too easy for these faceless advertising agencies to work unchallenged and this type of public “naming and shaming” brings the responsibility to their doorsteps.

Dr Van Tulleken, whose voice over is heard in the campaign says: “The brain pollution of advertising creates not just the high-carbon lifestyles feeding the climate emergency, but also a wave of commerciogenic diseases ranging from malnutrition to depression. Yet this is one of the least talked about and understood aspects of the climate and public health crises. We need to end the badvertising that undermines climate action and public health for both our health and our ultimate survival.”

GREENWASHING

The Ministry for the Climate Emergency isn’t waiting for advertising agencies to regulate their own behaviour: instead they are demanding legislation against high-carbon advertising with emphasis on fossil fuel companies, motor cars and flying. Thankfully there is precedence: local Governments in Norwich, Liverpool and Amsterdam are all taking measures to curtail these types of ads.

Not only does the advertising industry promote “carbon intensive products”, they also assist high polluters to “greenwash” according to experts. Many of us will have seen the adverts by fossil fuel companies claiming that they are heavily investing in renewable energy: the truth is that most oil producers spend a tiny fraction of their revenues on renewable technology, preferring to direct resources into further oil and gas extraction. BP ran adverts claiming “We’re working to make energy cleaner” at a time when 96% of its annual spend was on oil and gas. BP and their likes understand the damage they do yet want us to believe they are working to make things better. This trickery is now being rightly called out as unethical.

PURVEYORS OF MISINFORMATION

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – a UK government regulatory body is cracking down on such exaggerated claims. They’ve released new guidelines demanding transparency in the claims advertisers make. Other initiatives such as AdGreen (who launched a free carbon calculator) want to help brands and advertising agencies measure the CO2 produced by their campaigns in an effort to promote net zero by 2030. The independent watchdog Brandalism exposes the ecological vandalism of many brands (and their advertising agencies). Nowhere is safe for the purveyors of misinformation: the advertising industries top awards ceremony was targeted by Extinction Rebellion who unveiled a sign reading “TELL THE TRUTH” during the glitzy event. Extinction Rebellion want a tobacco-style ban on fossil fuel advertising.

In recent months the US Congress announced an investigation into the campaign of disinformation and climate change denial that the fossil fuel industry has funded. Back in the UK the Guardian Newspaper became the first global news organisation to stop taking money from fossil fuel extraction companies. The reason? “Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world,” said senior Guardian executives. Greenpeace called it a “watershed” moment which would end the legitimacy of fossil fuels. Furthermore the Guardian are adjusting their phraseology to reflect the scale of the challenge. The terms “climate change” and “global warming” are being replaced by “climate emergency” and “global heating”.

Other campaigners are going down the legal route. In the US Delaware, along with Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, the District of Columbia and others are suing the oil industry for violating consumer protection laws through their “greenwashing” adverts. Advertising agencies may well find themselves dragged into the Courts to explain their actions: similar lawsuits against the tobacco industry in the 1980’s and 90’s highlighted the devious role played by PR companies in fooling the public about the dangers of smoking.

BEING PART OF THE SOLUTION

But the advertising world isn’t all made up of unethical players: Futerra, an advertising agency based in the UK are asking other agencies to voluntarily declare what proportion of their income comes from from not only “Big Oil”, but also the airline, motor, concrete and plastics industry. 244 Agencies have signed up to the initiative.

Finally all of this unprecedented pressure is causing recruitment problems for fossil fuel companies and the agencies that work for them. “Most talented executives want to be part of the solution, not the problem,” said one US Recruitment Agency. Take the example of Christine Arena, CEO of Generous, a PR firm from California. She left a large Public Relations firm to protest it’s representation of Big Oil firms. She says it’s no longer tenable for PR firms to position themselves as climate saviours while representing the firms that are causing the most ecological damage. Without doubt, things are going to get increasingly uncomfortable for the big polluters and their facilitators in the years ahead.

TM Group Meeting Jan 2022

Transition Monaghan held a meeting on 5th January 2022 on ZOOM.

Members in attendance:
Dermot McNally (Chair), Collette McEntee (Treasurer), Floss Moen (Column Editor), Liam Murtagh (SPC Delegate), Eddie O’Gara (SPC Delegate), Niamh Brannigan, Bernie O’Flaherty, Charlie Barker, Emer Brennan and Marty Connolly.

Agenda:
Dermot welcomed attendees and move to invite speakers.

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Polar Ice Caps

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT AND WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THEM?

Greenland (near the North Pole) and Antarctica (South Pole) are home to most of the world’s glacial ice, including its only two ice sheets. Glaciers and ice sheets have been appearing in the news quite frequently in the past few years as they are increasingly unstable due to global warming. Just before Christmas it was reported that the Thwaites Glacier in the Antarctic, which is the widest glacier in the world and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Doomsday Glacier’, could collapse in as little as five years. Candice Moen has a closer look at our earth’s ice.

THE HISTORY OF ICE ON EARTH

There have been many ice ages on earth, most of them long before humans made their first appearance. These ice ages would have ranged from “comparatively mild” to “so severe that the entire Earth froze over for tens or even hundreds of millions of years”. Looking back over the history of these ice ages, the planet seems to have three main settings: ‘greenhouse’, when tropical temperatures extend to the poles and there are no ice sheets at all; ‘icehouse’, when there is some permanent ice, although its extent varies greatly; and ‘snowball’, in which the planet’s entire surface is frozen over. During the different greenhouse, icehouse and snowball there was ice present in various different locations across the earth’s surface.

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Sustainable Christmas

HOW CAN WE ‘DECK THE HALLS’ WITH LESS IMPACT?

At this time of year, we pour so much of our energy, both physical and mental, into trying to ensure a ‘perfect Christmas’ where we buy the right presents for everyone, we have the house beautifully decorated (and tidied!) and have wonderful food and drinks available for friends and family. It can be exhausting. Christmas has become “the biggest annual festival of consumption around the globe”, and has reached the point where this excessive consumption is “not just normal, it’s positively encouraged” [Jen Gale]. So, how can we reduce our impact without losing any of the spirit and joy of this special time of year? Niamh Brannigan and Candice Moen ‘unwrap’ the situation.

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Climate Action Plan

WILL WE BE LEADERS OR LAGGARDS IN IMPLEMENTING IT?

Ireland has been described in recent years as a ‘climate laggard’ because of our country’s failure to meet commitments on EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Recently the Irish Government launched its new Climate Action Plan. It sets out how all of us in this country will play our part in the global effort to keep global warming to less than 1.5°C.Scientists say that warming above this level will increase the risk of climate chaos and significant suffering for humanity. Liam Murtagh sets out the key elements of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan and considers what is needed to ensure that the plan is implemented successfully.

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Water Quality Video with Síolta Chroí and LAWPRO 2021/2022

Transition Monaghan are involved in a Water Quality awareness video project on Monaghan water quality. The project is led by Siolta Chroi, supported by Transition Monaghan and funded by LAWPRO). At this stage in late 2021, a lot of the footage has been taken and a few interviews have been done. There are a few more interviews to do before the footage can be edited to make the final video. 

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T’M’ trip to Síolta Chroí October 2021

Transition Monaghan members converged on Síolta Chroí outside Carrickmacross to see how the regenerative farm is progressing. We were blessed with a cool dry day to take the tour and chat to the owners, Karen and Gareth (also Transition Monaghan members).

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T’M’ members on Strategic Policy Committees with Monaghan Co-Co

Transition Monaghan have three delegates on Monaghan County Councils Strategic Policy Committee. Delegates give feedback on Monaghan County Councils initiatives. The Committee meets four times a year and delegates report back to Transition Monaghan.

Our delegates include:

Liam Murtagh: Climate and Environment Strategic Policy Committee.

Karen Jeffers: Economic Development Strategic Policy Committee.

Eddie O Gara: Housing, Community and Culture Strategic Policy Committee.

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