Energy Citizens “Just Like You”? Public Relations Campaigning by the Climate Change Counter-movement

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Abstract

The climate change counter-movement (CCCM) was created in 1989 immediately following the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Brulle 2014) and has only deepened its public influence efforts since the Paris Agreement (Besley & Peters 2020). Striving to spread alternative climate change narratives, the CCCM deploys what we characterize as Information and Influence Campaigns (IICs), multimedia campaigns executed by public relations (PR) contractors designed to influence public discourse toward specific conclusions–often by using certain value-laden rhetorical frames. In this paper, we identify the dominant objectives, activities, and rhetorical messaging frames constituting four major IICS surrounding the Waxman-Markey bill debates: one representing each of the three major fossil fuel industries along with the one significant “green” campaign of the era. By tracing the implementation of rhetorical frames across a diverse array of campaign activities to achieve discrete objectives, we demonstrate these fossil actors' clear intentions to steer public opinion toward anti-environmental viewpoints through the use of strategic PR. When considered together with the significant resource advantage held by those that propagate these discourses, the stakes are enormous for both climate policy outcomes and the integrity of the public sphere.

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Sassan, C., Mahat, P., Aronczyk, M., & Brulle, R. J. (2023). Energy Citizens “Just Like You”? Public Relations Campaigning by the Climate Change Counter-movement. Environmental Communication, 17(7), 794–810. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2023.2255388

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