Climate skeptics tie climate groups to Russia
Plus, the social media impact of Biden’s oil reserve announcement
Welcome to Climate Monitor, a weekly digest of digital strategies that polluters and climate-action groups are deploying to inform, persuade, and mobilize Americans. We’ve examined political ad spending on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Google by dozens of entities from the past week, as well as key organic narratives spreading on social media.
In digital ads and organic posts, conservative media and GOP politicians spread the lie that Russia is secretly behind the U.S. environmental movement.
The Biden administration’s attempts to mitigate the impacts of higher gas prices continue to be well-received on Facebook, but right-wing propaganda and memes about gas prices are still highly pervasive on social media.
Spending on Facebook ads by climate groups grew by 17 percent last week compared to the previous week, particularly because of new investments from EDF, Earthjustice, and LCV.
Meanwhile, spending on the platform by polluters decreased for the first time in about a month due to BP ending its digital greenwashing campaign.
Weekly digital ad spending data
First, here are the top 25 spenders nationwide on climate and energy-related ads on Meta platforms from last week:
Overall, here’s a look at how weekly spending on Facebook + Instagram ads by those climate groups and polluters compares week-over-week:
… and here’s climate-related ad spending data on Snapchat, year-to-date:
The top-spending political advertiser nationwide last week on Facebook was right-wing media company The Daily Wire. While most of their ads were not climate-related and instead focused on culture war issues, this one caught our eye:
The ad repeats a recent right-wing narrative that falsely claims that Russia is secretly backing U.S. environmental advocacy groups, to undermine American energy independence. We first spotted this narrative emerge in early March, when the Washington Post fact-checking team debunked the claim. The lie has recently been repeated by FOX News and Congressional Republicans. You’ll also notice that a leading U.S. Senate candidate in North Carolina, Ted Budd, is running ads repeating the lie.
Elsewhere on Facebook, we saw Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future continue to run ads in support of increasing the production of liquid natural gas, using the reputation of former Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Mary Landrieu to do so.
Climate & energy ads in the 2022 elections
Here’s a roundup of new climate and energy-related ad campaigns from candidates in the 2022 midterm elections:
PA-SEN: Energy + climate are front and center in the GOP primary for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat - with Dave McCormick attacking Dr. Oz for supposedly not supporting fracking. Meanwhile, Dr. Oz is demonizing President Biden for not supporting more U.S. drilling.
NC-SEN: Leading Republican candidate for Senate Ted Budd is running ads implying that clean energy groups are Russia-backed.
IA-GOV: Governor Kim Reynolds is promoting her recent op-ed in new digital ads pushing for more fossil fuel production in the U.S.
ME-GOV: Dem. Gov. Janet Mills is fundraising off her record “fighting climate change” in new Facebook ads. She’s facing off against former far-right Gov. Paul LePage this year.
IL-06: Rep. Marie Newman is attacking Rep. Sean Casten in a heated primary ad accusing the latter of being not progressive enough due to his record as a former fossil fuel company CEO.
Reaching frontline communities
Over the past couple of weeks, LCV has spent just under $1k on a Facebook + Instagram ad campaign through its Chispa Nevada page organizing for climate justice in the Silver State and electrifying its school buses. These ads were mostly targeted at young and middle-aged women in Nevada.
Trending on social media
Overall, the top three Facebook posts mentioning climate change and related terms last week came from Finance Insider (47.4k interactions), Joe Biden (42.9k interactions), and Finance Insider (40.4k interactions).
The announcement of President Joe Biden’s decision to release oil from the strategic preserve appeared to do well on Facebook, but it didn’t seem to appease oil hawks. Sean Hannity in particular was helping Republicans push Big Oil talking points both online and on his show over the past week. A post of his boosting Lauren Boebert’s recent “drill, baby drill” statement got 23.3k interactions, and two clips of his blaming the Biden administration for “the oil and gas crisis” and failing to “secure the border and reduce foreign oil” featuring Lindsey Graham got a combined ~550k views.
Over on Instagram, the top three posts mentioning climate change, energy, and related terms came from tclelectronics (223.3k interactions), dc_draino (211.5k interactions), and ladbible (189.7k interactions). Like previous weeks, Instagram users continue to use the platform to commiserate about high gas prices, and climate skeptics are still trying to exploit that frustration.
Tracking climate misinformation
Triplecheck identified approximately 280 tweets with more than 10 retweets and 120 Facebook posts with more than 10 engagements that contained misinformation or toxic narratives related to the environment from March 29, 2022, through April 04, 2022.
More than eight million people were exposed to this content on Twitter during the time period reviewed, an increase from last week's exposure levels. The content had over 32,000 engagements on Facebook, an increase from last week. Approximately 60% of the people exposed to misinformation or toxic narratives related to the environment on Twitter were exposed to one of the following themes:
Democrats want to combat climate change more than they want to protect national security;
People don’t care about climate change when they can’t afford the cost of food;
Democrats are using the crisis in Ukraine to force the adoption of the Green New Deal.
These narratives were also the focus of approximately 60 percent of the Facebook engagements. You can find the full report here>>
That’s it for Climate Monitor this week. 🌎 Comments or questions? Email us at email@example.com.