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Debunking anti-climate change propaganda

According to the Oxford dictionary, the word propaganda means: “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” The use of propaganda was on display last week at a state Senate hearing on New York’s climate plan.

The state’s Climate Plan was developed over the past two years under a 2019 law that mandates the state meet certain climate goals, eventually leading to virtually no greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. That overall goal is consistent with one set by the world’s experts, who have warned that unless the world kicks the fossil fuel habit by then runaway global warming will devastate the planet.

New York’s 2019 law ceded to a Climate Action Council the power to develop the blueprint that the state should follow in order to meet its aggressive, science-based climate goals.

There were legitimate issues being raised by lawmakers and groups concerned about the ability of the state to implement the blueprint. But there was also the drumbeat of propaganda, one that bears the fingerprints of the behind-the-scenes work of the fossil fuel industry: “They are coming for your gas stoves!”

The Climate Plan says that in order to meet the requirements of New York’s climate law, the state must stop adding new fossil fuel infrastructure. Why build new oil and gas pipelines that take decades to pay off if the state has to stop burning those fuels? Thus, the Climate Plan recommends requiring that new building construction rely on electricity for heating and cooking, not fossil fuels. In addition, the Climate Plan says that in the future, appliances that run on gas should not be sold.

The reality is that if you have, say, a gas stove now and you rely on an existing gas pipeline to power it, nothing changes – certainly not right away. After all, how often do you buy a new stove? No one is proposing that New Yorkers have to drag their gas stoves out to the garbage.

So who’s behind the effort to rile people up? A recent New York Times investigation reports that the fossil fuel industry is bankrolling a nationwide effort to pull the plug on the growing effort to reduce carbon emissions and switch to electricity to power society. The article specifically referenced the campaign in New York State. According to the Times, the propane gas lobby “committed nearly $900,000 to a New York propane industry group to address the ‘massive challenge from well-funded efforts to electrify the entire state.’”

Their handiwork was apparent during the Senate hearing. Opponents of the Climate Plan argued that while they supported the climate law, they were concerned that the Plan reduced the use of fossil fuels. An obvious inconsistency.

The drumbeat of “they’re coming for your gas stoves” was heard again and again and fit in a social media campaign that followed.

There’s no sugar-coating it: Even under the best of circumstances, the climate costs will be staggering, the planet will continue to heat up, and there will be terrible suffering among all living things.

And the worst part is that, had the world acted sooner, we could have avoided the tremendous loss of treasure and curbed human suffering. But we didn’t. The delay is due to the oil companies and their allies who skillfully lied to the public and successfully deceived us about the real threats. They attacked policies that could have averted the situation we’re in today – and will be in tomorrow and for years to come. And they’re still doing it!

The costs to NY will be unprecedented – protecting roadways, mass transit systems, and shorelines from rising sea levels and more intense storms will cost New York tens of billions of dollars.

Who will pick up this huge tab? Right now, you and I. It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, take a portion of Big Oil’s profits and direct it to the massive infrastructure projects that the state must undertake. And do it in a way that ensures that those assessments are not passed on to the public.

Now is the time to act. Not some other year. Now. Now is the time to make the oil companies, who are at the root of this problem, accountable.

Blair Horner is executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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