Commentary

Climate Change For TV: Banning TV Fossil-Fuel Ads

Do you really want to stop climate change? Maybe advertising — or the the lack of it — may help.

While much attention has been focused on getting countries to drastically curb carbon emissions, one opinion piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientistshas a novel idea. Eschewing oil-related TV and movie theater advertising might slow consumer consumption.

The premise is that fossil fuels, like cigarettes, aren't good for anyone’s health long-term. So stop the advertising for ExxonMobil, BP and all the rest — and that will result in ripple effects on consumer behavior.

And what about auto advertising? The piece points to a Canadian study that aggressive advertising of SUVs, pickups and vans, which account for 80% of new vehicle sales in Canada, is major reason that greenhouse gas emissions keeps rising.

At the same time, I’d suggest we are seeing more advertising for electric vehicles. That is a good thing, yes? And what about hybrid electric/gas vehicles? These are transition products for sure. But they do send messages about changes in transportation. Uber and Lyft advertising? Maybe that's headed in the right direction, too.

Much of the fossil-fuel advertising seems more of a overall brand-centric messaging — nice video of the environment, perhaps a profile of few scientists, and of course, the brand name of the company. There is little in the way of driving consumer behavior.

Changing behavior for the greater good? The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists notes: “These ads send a message, even if we don’t buy the specific product they are selling. They normalize what must now be wound down, [they] encourage young people in particular to idealize these products and the lifestyles they promote ... Advertising works.”

Well, we can agree on that last point.

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