Put tobacco-style health warnings on fossil fuel ads

A first-of-its-kind complaint argues that all fossil fuel ads should be banned, unless they come with warnings about the climate dangers of burning fossil fuels.

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.

If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up for your own subscription here:

HEATED is a community, and I love hearing from readers. If you have thoughts, questions, story ideas or tips, you can reach me at emily@heated.world.


Usually, HEATED focuses on one news item per day. But today, on this last day of the newsletter week, I’m switching things up a bit.

Instead of explaining one thing that already happened, I’m going to explain three things that are going to happen next week. These things are all newsletter-related, and they range from exciting to interesting to infuriating. I hope you enjoy them all.

So let’s get to it! And by “it” I mean DRINKING WATER, you intelligent-but-most-likely-dehydrated bunch of beautiful nerds.

Teaser #1: A critical analysis of fossil fuel advertising in media outlets

You’re not just imagining things. Advertisements from fossil fuel companies are popping up everywhere these days: On Twitter, on Instagram, on billboards, and in our most trusted journalism outlets.

That last one seems to be bothering a lot of you. It’s bothering me, too.

So next week, HEATED is going to take a deep dive into which media outlets are running the most fossil fuel ads in a time of climate crisis.

The research is going well so far, but I need your help. If you’ve seen or heard any fossil fuel company advertising while reading, listening to, or watching the news, could you let me know about it?

For online media, just a screenshot of the ad and the date of publication will do. For print media, a picture would be great. For podcasts, radio programs, and TV segments, you’ll just have to describe the when and where you heard it—and I’ll do my best to verify it.

For the sake of organization, please send examples to my Hot Action email: action@heated.world. Anything you come across would be helpful.

I’m really excited about this project, because there are so many questions to explore beyond the “who, what and where” of fossil fuel advertising in media.

For example, are journalism outlets lying to readers when they allow fossil fuel companies to claim, in ads, that they’re part of the solution? After all, the largest 83 fossil fuel companies (and 7 cement companies) are responsible for about one-half of the rise in average global temperatures and close to one-third of sea level rise since the Industrial Revolution. And according to the most recent IPCC report, fossil fuel companies have already committed to burning 120 percent more fossil fuels than we can burn if we want to limit warming to 1.5°Celsius.

By taking money from these companies without disclosing these facts, are media companies profiting from the climate crisis?

We’ll pose the questions to the outlets themselves, along with experts. But there are groups that already say yes—and that the practice of fossil fuel advertising needs to change.

In fact, just yesterday, the environmental NGO ClientEarth filed a complaint against oil company BP with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group that sets international rules governing corporate conduct.

The first-of-its-kind complaint claims that BP’s ads about its low-carbon energy efforts mislead consumers and the public about BP’s contribution to climate change. It also calls for “all advertising by fossil fuel companies to be banned, unless it comes with a tobacco-style health warning about dangers to the planet and people.” These tobacco-style health warnings “should quote the IPCC’s warning about the dangers of continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels,” ClientEarth says. “This would make sure the public is not misled, and fossil fuel companies are accountable for the damage they do.”

Such a health warning would look like this:

Personally, I think it’s a great idea. If you agree, you can sign ClientEarth’s petition about it HERE. You can also read more about ClientEarth’s effort in the Guardian, which published a story about it yesterday, HERE.

We’ll dive more into it next week.

Teaser #2: An interview with Numlock News

Yesterday, I did a Q&A about HEATED with INSIDER data journalist Walt Hickey, who writes the wildly popular newsletter Numlock News.

Numlock News is basically a daily compilation of interesting numbers in the news. This is especially effective for climate purposes, I think, because numbers provide effective ways for people both to talk about and understand what’s happening to our planet. And as you all likely know, simply talking about climate change with friends and family is one of the most effective things you can do to help solve it, according to peer-reviewed research.

Here are some fascinating climate-related numbers from Walt’s newsletter.

  • On the threat to coffee:

    “There are roughly 125 non-domesticated species of coffee, and potentially even more to be discovered, but 10 percent may disappear within the decade due to deforestation and changes in climate, and 70 percent are at risk of extinction.” (From the November 7 issue)

  • On the risk of mosquito-pocalypse:

    “Under a moderate warming scenario, 2.25 billion more people could be at risk for dengue fever by 2080 than were in 2015 thanks to the brand-new habitats the mosquitoes will be able to occupy.”

  • On how not all recent climate changes are entirely bad:

    “In northern latitudes, average wind speeds have risen 7 percent since 2010 … which is good news in the sense that wind farms will produce significantly more energy than previously anticipated. If the trend continues, wind power generation could increase 37 percent.” (From the November 19 issue)

Impress your friends and family with these numbers by bringing them up at your next social gathering. Or better yet, put them as “fun facts” in your dating app profile. I’m sure it will go really well.

Oh, and also, subscribe to Numlock News to make sure you see my interview with Walt. It will go out on Sunday.

Teaser #3: An opportunity to pay me

That’s right, fam. The time has come.

For the last three months, I’ve offered HEATED free of charge. I haven’t even given readers the options to pay me for my work. That’s because I wanted to prove its value to you, first.

I hope I’ve done that. Because Next week, HEATED will open its financial doors to the public.

I’ll announce the rates in my Monday email. And for the entire week, HEATED will remain 100 percent free.

But starting the week after that, only paid subscribers will get access to 100 percent of HEATED content, Monday through Thursday. Free subscribers will only be guaranteed to get one email per week.

Of course, I’m terrified about this. I quit my steady job to do this newsletter because I believed the climate media landscape sorely needed a consistent, independent voice on accountability. And now, its future depends on regular people like you valuing it enough to pay for it.

But I’m also unbearably excited. Because if this works, I can start growing this thing even bigger. We’ve already had such a huge impact—16,000 subscribers, a presidential candidate shout-out, a change in Twitter ad policy, and coverage in national media outlets from the Washington Post to NPR. And so far, it’s just been from word of mouth. Imagine how many more people we can reach with some strategic marketing. Imagine how much more we can reveal if I’m able to hire a research assistant. Imagine how fewer spelling errors there will be if I could get a copy editor.

It all depends on you, and whether you’re willing to support independent journalism. I can’t wait to see what happens on Monday!

See you then!

OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!

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Questions? Comments? Tips? Send ‘em to emily@heated.world.

Suggestions for an action readers can/should take in response to something I’ve written in this newsletter? Send those to action@heated.world.

See you next week!

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