Far-right rages about Ohio disaster on social media
A roundup of the climate conversation across social media this week
Welcome to Climate Monitor, a weekly report on the digital strategies polluters and pro-Climate groups are using to shift public opinion and move legislation. We’ve examined political ad spending on social media platforms, as well as what’s trending on social media. Here’s what we found:
Far-right media and political personalities were eager to share content about the environmental crisis unfolding in East Palestine, Ohio, as a way to attack the Biden administration and Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg.
Earthjustice led Facebook and Instagram ad spending on climate and energy issues last week, running a campaign against ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project
Several state-based advertisers have emerged to run campaigns against climate action in NY and CA.
ConocoPhillips is running Google Search ads for “Willow Project” and “arctic drilling” to let everyone know that their work is 100% great for the environment
Content about the East Palestine train derailment also spread on TikTok, but several of the most viral videos could contain false information or conspiracy theories.
Digital Advertising Roundup
Facebook + Instagram advertising
For starters, here were the top 25 climate and energy-related advertisers on Facebook and Instagram last week:
Earthjustice was the top spending climate or energy-related advertiser on Facebook and Instagram last week. The environmental advocacy group is running several major campaigns - the most notable being in opposition to ConocoPhillips’ latest oil drilling scheme in the Arctic, called the Willow Project.
Several new advertisers have emerged in recent days to influence environmental and energy policy fights at the state level. Among them is a campaign called Smarter NY Energy, which is running ads attacking Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plans to encourage the adoption of electric appliances. Another is Californians for Energy Independence, which wants more oil and gas drilling in the state.
Google & YouTube Advertising
There were not many Google ad campaigns related to climate and energy issues last week that were archived according to the company’s political ad policies. As a reminder, only ads mentioning a candidate or ballot initiative are publicly archived here.
However, we did spot ConocoPhillips running Search ads when researching their latest arctic drilling project:
Other relevant advertisers on Google platforms included the Evergreen Collaborative ($2,400) and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters ($800).
The only climate-related advertiser on Snapchat this year remains Patagonia, which has now spent $3,050 on ads we’ve mentioned in previous issues.
Deep Dive: Far-right seizes on Ohio environmental disaster
New to the world of environmental advocacy, far-right voices from Sean Hannity to Dan Bongino, Matt Walsh, and Glenn Beck have taken to social media to highlight the ongoing disaster occurring in East Palestine, Ohio.
For those unaware, on February 3rd, a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in a small community on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, causing major environmental concerns. Here’s a good explainer from the NYT on what happened. While coverage and commentary of the event were initially cautious and slow to take off nationally, it has turned into a frenzy on the Right, as pundits and personalities look for any openings to attack the Biden administration.
According to CrowdTangle, out of the top-performing 25 Facebook posts about the disaster, more than half of them come from far-right sources:
Coincidentally, these are the same accounts that were proudly defending Americans’ rights to inhale cancer-causing gas fumes less than a month ago. Now, they seek to exploit an environmental catastrophe to score quick political points and spread conspiracy theories. Specifically, many of the posts seek to damage Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg:
This is a real crisis, and corporations, regulators, bureaucrats, and political figures alike should be held accountable for mitigating its impact and preventing future disasters. Journalist Judd Legum published an excellent newsletter on this dynamic this week, clearly laying out that the solutions needed are actually commonsense government regulations that the industry - and their allies on the Right - have fought against for years.
What’s Trending on Social Media
How are climate and energy issues being discussed by Americans on social media? Here were the top-performing public posts (by # of interactions) related to climate and energy on Facebook last week:
Engagement on Facebook posts about climate and energy-related topics was way down last week (as the Ohio story did not really catch fire on social media until the past few days).
The top-performing posts came from Hillary Clinton and Occupy Democrats - sharing generic memes about Biden administration accomplishments - of which climate action is one of many. Vice President Kamala Harris received moderate levels of engagement on two of her posts related to electric vehicles and climate policy.
Meanwhile, on Instagram, here were the top-performing feed posts (excluding Reels & stories) related to climate and energy last week:
As you can see, posts on Instagram received significantly more engagement last week. What stuck out to us the most was a pair of posts from Donald Trump’s re-election campaign (@teamtrump), which deployed familiar lines of attack on Biden and Democrats for high gas prices and energy costs.
Lastly, on TikTok, a bunch of accounts spread information of varying degrees of credibility related to the crisis in East Palestine.
There’s this one, which sought to hold Norfolk Southern executives accountable, and this misleading one from the fringe Epoch Times, which falsely claims that there is a media blackout on the topic. Other viral videos may show fish kills and elevated levels of chemicals in the air - but it’s hard to tell if the videos are legit. Welcome to the Wild West of TikTok.
That’s it for this week! If you enjoyed reading this week’s issue, feel free to forward it to a friend or colleague.
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