Information Wars

In the fight against catastrophic climate change, it’s increasingly clear that we’re in an information war… and it’s not going well.

Who could seriously believe that ’15 minute cities’ are part of a global lockdown conspiracy, instead of a rather obvious planning policy about the desirability of having the facilities you need within 15mins walk or cycle ride?   Seems nuts, but nevertheless, some people believe it.

In 2023 over 25% of new car sales in the UK had a plug, but sections of the fossil fuel lobby are fighting rearguard action against eVs.  In October 2023, when a devastating fire broke out in the multi-story carpark of Luton Airport, posts on Twitter and Facebook immediately claimed it was caused by an eV.  This got widespread attention, despite Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue service confirming that it was “an accidental fire that started in one of the vehicles that had not long arrived at the airport. It was not an EV. This was a diesel powered vehicle.”

In October, British Gas and Worcester Bosch were being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority for claiming falsely that new boilers are “hydrogen ready”, when they aren’t, and repeated studies show that Hydrogen will never play a significant role in domestic heating.

The COP28 climate negotiations in Dubai in December started with a 2 day media-friendly blitz of announcements. However, the fossil-fuel-friendly text of the proposed deal was only released hours before the theoretical end of the meeting. Following a storm of outrage, there were some minor changes, but few delegates noticed the subsequent, overnight addition of language promoting the use of gas. Just a few hours later, in a brief plenary session, Cop28 president Sultan Al-Jaber (also head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) announced that the deal had been adopted.   

These are all examples of the sort of disinformation, lies, manipulation and blatant self-interest that we’re up against.  And the threat is likely to rise in 2024, as fossil fuel industry fights harder and AI makes it cheaper and easier to propagate disinformation with precision and scale.

It’s easy to get disillusioned, and to want to give up.  However, it’s important to remember that there are many organisations and individuals that ARE working hard to do the right thing, and it’s making progress, but that it often gets a lot less coverage. 

For example, in December, Cambridge City Council made the Carbon Disclosure Project’s “A list of global leaders in environmental action, ambition and transparency” This is genuinely impressive.  But who knew?

In difficult times, it’s encouraging to remember that the future can often be much brighter than it seems.   

There is still hope. So we need to continue the fight.