cover image The Language of Climate Politics: Fossil-Fuel Propaganda and How to Fight It

The Language of Climate Politics: Fossil-Fuel Propaganda and How to Fight It

Genevieve Guenther. Oxford Univ, $29.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-19-764223-8

Climate scientists, advocates, and journalists have unwittingly absorbed propagandistic definitions and narratives that subtly shape the news narrative in favor of fossil fuels, argues climate activist Guenther (Magical Imaginations) in this revelatory study. Hoping to clear the air, she uncovers the origins of climate change–related terms currently trafficked by the media, showing how ideas developed by right-wing think tanks have traveled into mainstream news coverage. For example, she tracks how the term “alarmism” has been deployed since 2017—first by the center-right Breakthrough Institute, which bills itself as environmentalist but pushes for increased fossil fuel development in the short-term—to discredit activists and scientists who continue to emphasize the need to rapidly decrease carbon emissions. Other terms investigated include economic-inflected ones like “cost” and “growth,” which Guenther argues obfuscate the real on-the-ground consequences of warming, and “resilience” and “innovation,” which promise unlikely technical fixes. She also examines the fad among American talking heads and op-ed writers for (falsely, she asserts) blaming “India and China” for increasing their carbon emissions and thereby casting decarbonization efforts elsewhere as futile. Her meticulous descriptions of how these terms have been laundered across five years of New York Times op-eds and New York Magazine features makes for piquant media-junkie fare. It’s a breath of fresh air. (July)