More than two dozen advocacy groups launched “extreme weather ads” in five state newspapers on Monday to pressure right-wing Senate Democrats to stop giving taxpayer money to the oil, gas, and coal companies most responsible for the climate emergency.
Full page ads — featuring artwork from Hannah Rothstein’s 50 States of Change Collection, which depicts some of the detrimental effects U.S. residents can expect if lawmakers refuse to swiftly enact robust climate mitigation measures — have been placed in The Arizona Republic, The Dover Post, The Billings Gazette, The Union Leader, and The Charleston Gazette-Mail, to mark the beginning of a week of action against fossil fuel subsidies.
Those five publications were chosen because they are the home-state newspapers of Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Chris Coons (Del.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), and Joe Manchin (W.Va.).
The coalition is targeting the six senators because of their close ties with Big Oil, which were exposed in late June when Greenpeace U.K. and the British Channel 4 News teamed up to release secretly recorded videos, wherein ExxonMobil lobbyists admitted that the company deliberately sowed doubt about climate science to protect fossil fuel profits and worked with several GOP lawmakers as well as conservative Democrats to undermine climate legislation.
According to the investigation, Coons, Manchin, Sinema, and Tester, along with Republican Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), John Cornyn (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), and Marco Rubio (Fla.), have taken tens of thousands of dollars from Exxon.
The 25 groups behind the ad campaign — including Greenpeace USA, Our Revolution, Public Citizen, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Food & Water Watch, and the Sunrise Movement — noted that the federal government gives more than $15 billion in public funding to fossil fuel corporations every year.
Moreover, the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill includes up to $25 billion in potential new subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. The key author of the energy-related measures in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is Manchin, who has made more than $4.5 million from his family’s coal business since joining the Senate in 2010.
The ad campaign comes just weeks after the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report, which, in the words of Greenpeace USA climate campaign manager Anusha Narayanan, “showed the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels will kill us all.”
“Everyone saw the video where a Big Oil lobbyist named these six Democratic senators as key to their plan to delay climate action,” Narayanan said Monday in a statement. “Members of Congress like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have the fossil fuel industry on speed dial, while they keep the rest of us on hold. That’s a disaster for the future of the planet and its people.”
“It’s time for Congress to stop taking over $15 billion from hardworking Americans and giving it to billionaire fossil fuel CEOs,” she continued. “Despite what these companies say, subsidies don’t actually lead to jobs and most subsidies go to profits.”
Narayanan added that an amended infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which Democratic Party leaders hope to pass through the reconciliation process, present a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for Sens. Kelly, Sinema, Coons, Tester, Hassan, and Manchin “to invest in a just transition to renewable energy, racial and economic justice, and working-class communities.”
The new ads also come as the U.S. West is suffering from an increasingly severe drought and 93 active wildfires, while the Northeast is battered by Tropical Storm Henri, and parts of the South, including North Carolina and Tennessee, are grappling with deadly flooding after being pummeled by record-breaking rainfall.
That lawmakers continue to collaborate with oil, gas, and coal companies despite dire warnings from scientists and glaring real-time evidence that fossil fuel emissions are exacerbating extreme weather events prompted Rothstein to ask: “What is wrong with our politicians?”
“Why do they continue to support Big Oil and coal when it’s clear these industries are causing natural disasters that harm everyday Americans?” Rothstein asked Monday in a statement. “California’s increasingly rampant wildfires, Texas’ unprecedented February 2021 snowstorm, and the current water shortages in Arizona, Montana, and New Mexico are only a few examples of the unshakably clear evidence that we need urgent climate action ASAP.”
“We can lessen, reverse, and prevent many of the issues depicted in 50 States of Change, but we need to act now, starting with an immediate and expedited shift away from burning fossil fuels,” she added. “This can’t be done solely on a consumer level. We need our elected officials on our side.”
In addition to being featured in the ad campaign, Rothstein’s artwork is also being used in an interactive story map, which will “underscore a state-by-state breakdown of current and future state-level impacts of the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.” It is set to be published on Greenpeace USA’s website on Wednesday.