It’s been five years since anti-energy activists created the “____ Knew” campaign attacking energy companies for allegedly conspiring to hide climate change from the public, and in that time they’ve managed to rack up a stunning losing streak in the courts.
Their latest stunt attempts to flip the script, alleging that “BP Knew” about climate change in the 1990s and should now be sued for sharing what they knew with the public.
This new attack on BP comes from an article written by Vatan Hüzeir, the founder and director of Changerism – a self-proclaimed “think and do tank” that “particularly operate[s] in the areas of climate change and the energy transition” based in the Netherlands.
The opinion column was published by the Dutch organization Follow the Money, which claims to practice “radically independent investigative journalism,” yet doesn’t note that BP has pledged to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, which undercuts his attack against the company.
Hüzeir cites a documentary produced by BP in 1990 and a speech given by the company’s then CEO in 1997, both on climate change, that Hüzeir somehow construes as evidence of a massive cover-up, even though both have been in the public’s view for years.
He uses these items to justify his call for a “total ban on fossil fuel advertising.”
However, the attack seems to have fallen flat. Well-known activist and “____ Knew” trumpeter Naomi Oreskes twice tweeted about the article, as did several other notable activists involved in the climate litigation echo chamber, but not a single news organization has picked up Hüzeir’s article.
Perhaps the media has finally picked up on the fact that these activists will say anything to score a point, even if their claims and hashtags make absolutely zero sense.
Hüzeir reports that his group, Changerism, “tracked down” a documentary produced by BP in 1991 titled “What Makes Weather?” which discusses carbon emissions’ effect on the climate.
The article insinuates that BP hid this video for years and that’s proof they concealed knowledge about climate change.
The only problem with that theory, as Hüzeir acknowledges, is that it wasn’t a secret video at all: “A digital copy is freely available online, via BP’s own video library.” (emphasis added)
The video only serves to undermine the article and the case that “BP Knew” about climate change and didn’t tell the public – a poor follow up to the failed “Exxon Knew,” “Shell Knew,” “Utilities Knew,” “JFK Knew” (we could go on) campaigns.
Instead, the very existence of the video shows that BP was aware of climate change and was active in discussing the topic publicly.
The article then cites a speech given in 1997 by then-BP CEO John Browne where “he became the first head of a major oil company to directly and publicly accept the emerging consensus on climate change, and Hüzeir says “BP was widely hailed for its new stance on climate change.”
The article then goes back to discussing the documentary and it’s well-known publicity at the time before it started to “fade from memory” – as things tend to do after 30 years:
“Clearly intended for educational purposes, it was available through BP’s education service for £12,95 in the mid-1990s. According to BP, the film was even awarded a bronze plaque at the 39th Annual Columbus International Film and Video Festival in 1991.
“In the 30 years since, What makes weather? has faded from memory. None of the activists and researchers Changerism consulted were aware of the video; an internet search for the title yields no results apart from the BP archive.”
For the record: just because a random sampling of researchers contacted by an activist group couldn’t recall a video, and the same group isn’t very good at navigating the internet, doesn’t mean there was a massive coordinated corporate cover-up.
Again, the documentary is literally on BP’s website.
Citing a publicly available video and a well-known speech both discussing climate change make for dubious claims that an energy company was hiding what it knew about climate change.
Activists Rely On Straw Man Fallacy
Hüzeir then quotes Carroll Muffett, the President, and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law, who quite clearly puts fake words into BP’s mouth. Muffett says:
“It’s precisely that divergence between what these companies knew about the climate risks from their products — and what they did and said about those risks — that underpins the growing number of climate suits against them worldwide. Unfortunately for BP, this film makes it all the harder for the company to say, ‘We didn’t know.’ It shows, all too clearly, that they did.’” (emphasis added)
Except, BP has never said “We didn’t know” – not in court or any other venue. Muffett is just making that phrase up so he can burn down the straw man he’s built.
BP has acknowledged climate change, including in the very documentary that Muffett mentions in his statement.
Ban Energy Advertisements?
The article then recalls another BP film from 1990 discussing how the company uses “advertising as a strategy for public trust,” which was the company’s “public relations plan, laid bare in its own words from thirty years ago.”
If any company in any industry anywhere in the world was still using the same public relations plan it developed 30 years ago, they should rightfully be out of business, left behind by innovation and market forces.
Yet, Hüzeir attempts to jam together outdated business plans and random events from 30 years ago as proof that they solved the puzzle of “BP Knew” and uses this to justify his call for a ban on advertising from energy companies.
The author wants readers to know he doesn’t like how BP does business and he’s part of the opposition:
“We need something more radical. To culturally depreciate the fossil fuel industry in a systematic way, its advertising must be banned altogether. I have called for such bans before.”
Energy In Depth has covered some dubious allegations before, but this pronouncement from Changerism takes the cake.
Climate activists have spent years alleging that energy companies hid what they knew about climate change from the public (they didn’t).
Changerism makes the opposite argument – BP spread information about climate change in the 1990s in about as public a manner as you can get – and somehow convinces themselves that this is also worthy of litigation.
It’s almost as if they had a predetermined narrative they wanted to peddle and were too busy patting themselves on the back for finding the documentary (which, and we cannot stress this enough, was posted on the company’s website) to stop and listen to what they were actually saying.
Read more at EID Climate
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