Climate groups use “climate anxiety” to spur grassroots action
Also inside: how one group is using Meta ads to build conservative support for climate action
Welcome to Climate Monitor, a weekly digest of the digital tactics and strategies that polluters and climate-action groups are using to shift public opinion and move legislation. We’ve examined political ad spending on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Google by several dozen groups and corporations from the past week, as well as what’s trending on social media. Tell your colleagues to subscribe here!
Science Moms and Action for the Climate Emergency have joined the Environmental Defense Fund and Climate Emergency Fund in running Facebook and Instagram ads about climate anxiety in recent weeks.
A group called RepublicEn has been running Meta ads using conservative messengers like evangelicals, military figures, and elected officials to create a permission structure for Republican voters to support climate action.
The dominant narrative about climate change or energy on social media last week concerned a report showing that some of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve was shipped to countries like China. Pages like Breitbart and Tucker Carlson seized on the news to accuse the Biden administration of “treason”, but their content went mostly unchecked by progressive pages.
National Digital Ad Spending on Climate
Meta (Facebook + Instagram)
First, here are the top 25 spenders nationwide on climate and energy-related ads on Meta platforms from last week:
Last week, we saw a major increase in spending on Meta political ads from Science Moms, which nearly doubled its spending on its ongoing campaign to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and empower concerned moms to act. They are also now one of the many climate groups that have started running ads about climate anxiety this year. The Climate Emergency Fund spent nearly $20k earlier this year on a campaign primarily targeting older women nationwide, encouraging them to “turn your climate change anxiety into action,” and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been running ads about it since mid-May. And on top of these, Action for the Climate Emergency ran a Meta ad campaign earlier this month targeting teenagers that encourages them to talk about their “#ClimateTruth”.
Additionally, conservative climate group RepublicEn has spent nearly $50k over the past couple of months targeting Indiana, Washington state, Florida, and Idaho with ads featuring conservative messengers talking about why they take climate change seriously.
Among polluters, spending on Meta political ads declined again last week. Just one entity meaningfully grew their spending last week: Enbridge, which has been slowly growing its investment in an ongoing campaign promoting Line 5 and pipelines generally. And even though the American Petroleum Institute is continuing to spend over $50k a week on Meta political ads, they just launched an extremely simple campaign that puts the phrase “ENERGY SECURITY HAS NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT!” in front of the American flag or the Statue of Liberty.
Google + YouTube
Over on Google, EDF Action spent $12,500 last week on an ad touting the benefits clean energy provides to Colorado, and which also thanks Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper for their work in supporting the industry in the state.
Overall, here’s how much these groups spent on Google political ads last week:
There were no new or ongoing political ad campaigns concerning climate change or energy on Snapchat last week. Overall, here’s how much groups have invested in the platform so far this year:
Climate & Energy Ads in the 2022 Elections
We identified just two ongoing digital ad campaigns about energy from battleground midterm campaigns:
AZ-SEN: Jim Lamon is running ad contrasting himself with “open borders Fake Blake Masters,” saying, “I created thousands of American jobs, made America less dependent on foreign energy.” The ad does not mention his business was in solar energy.
GA-SEN: Herschel Walker is still attacking Raphael Warnock for high gas prices: “In 18 months, we have gone from energy independence to energy dependence for no reason other than to appease a few radical members of their party - and at the expense of hard-working Americans.”
Reaching Frontline Communities
A Charlotte-based nonprofit called CleanAIRE NC has started using Meta ads to organize residents of one of the city’s historic Black neighborhoods. Over the past week, they’ve used their digital ad dollars to raise awareness for a public hearing on a proposed “Carbon Plan” in Wilmington, and they’re now running a campaign to raise attendance for a clean air advocacy training.
Tracking Climate Disinfo Online
Triplecheck found that more than nine million people were exposed to misinformation or toxic narratives related to climate change on Twitter during the time period reviewed, a decrease of 40 percent from last week's exposure levels. The content had over 32,000 engagements on Facebook, a decrease of 70 percent from last week's exposure levels. The content had over 3,600,000 views on Telegram, a decrease of 35 percent from last week's exposure levels.
The top narratives and themes are below. You can find Triplecheck’s full report here.
New Dutch environmental regulations are part of the global communist agenda
2,900,000 human accounts exposed on Twitter
Over 17,000 engagements on Facebook
Over 460,000 views on Telegram
Environmentalists are intentionally causing food shortages to advance their climate agenda
900,000 human accounts exposed on Twitter
Over 640 engagements on Facebook
Climate change is a hoax
1,000,000 human accounts exposed on Twitter
What’s trending organically?
Last week, the most engaged Facebook posts mentioning climate change, energy, and related terms came from Sustainable Gardening for Florida, a small gardening blog that made a viral post extolling the environmental and financial benefits of growing one’s own food. A video showing the release of an endangered loggerhead sea turtle also performed relatively well.
Outside of those viral posts, though, a report that found that some of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) at the same time as gas prices spiked ignited a new right-wing attack line across social media. Some right-wing pages, egged on by Tucker Carlson, argued that the policy is an impeachable offense, while others tied in Hunter Biden conspiracy theories to make the policy seem corrupt as well. These claims are misleading of course, but as always, that doesn’t stop them from gaining traction on social media: the top 20 Facebook posts from right-wing pages generated 296k interactions. By contrast, a post from President Joe Biden explaining the policy got just 30k interactions.
Additionally, a post from evangelist Roy Fields, who used some hand-waving math to argue that filling a gas-powered bus is cheaper than charging an electric vehicle, got 71k interactions.
Overall, here’s how the most engaged content on Facebook breaks down:
Instagram last week was similarly flooded with right-wing content denouncing the Biden administration’s SPR policy. Right-wing page a_typical_liberal was one of the biggest drivers of this new right-wing narrative on Instagram, getting nearly 413k interactions and 3.69 million video views across just two posts. The top 10 Instagram right-wing posts pushing this narrative got 722k interactions in total, but of the 100 most engaged posts mentioning energy, there were no left-wing posts to counter it.
Overall, here’s how the most engaged content on Instagram mentioning climate, energy, and related terms breaks down:
That’s it for Climate Monitor this week. As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to drop us a line by shooting an email to email@example.com.