Fossil fuel interests love to steal social justice language and use it to trick people into supporting the oil and gas industry. This fossil fuel “woke-washing” often comes in the form of false class struggle arguments that wrongly present climate action as a scam used by elite actors to disempower the working class, when it’s really the fossil fuel industry that’s hurting low-income communities through air pollution and petrochemical-linked cancer.
These false arguments are especially apparent in the recent online attacks against climate activist Sophia Kianni. For example, disinfluencer Tom Nelson has recently been harassing Kianni on Twitter multiple times per week, writing things like “Looks like UN #ClimateCult advisor Sophia just took yet *another* hydrocarbon-fueled trip across the U.S.!”
Fossil fuel cronies love pointing to long-distance flights and private jet usage to bolster the conspiracy theory that climate change is a made-up plot to “force the lower working class into submission” while billionaires like Bill Gates get to live in luxury. Just like every conspiracy theory, there are some shreds of truth embedded within this claim: regardless of what climate activists do, billionaires should absolutely not exist, private jet users do in fact emit a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions, and people should certainly call out hypocrisy and demand climate action from those in power. However, rich people being hypocritical doesn't negate the facts that climate change is very real and low-income communities are the most vulnerable to dangerous climate impacts. Harassing Kianni and other climate advocates for taking flights in the process of their climate advocacy serves only to further delay climate action and push us closer to climate catastrophe, which hurts low-income communities the most.
In case you’re still feeling swayed by the ‘fossil fuels benefit low-income people’ woke-washing claims, we’ll point out that the people and organizations spreading this narrative are usually financially backed by the fossil fuel industry. Alex Epstein, who constantly waxes poetic about “energy poverty,” openly acknowledges having received money from fossil fuel interests. Similarly, the Heartland Institute, which pretends to care about the people in poverty who are supposedly “missing out” on fossil fuels, has literally received funding from ExxonMobil.
The disingenuous nature of these woke-washing claims becomes especially obvious when you consider that these supposedly pro-social justice actors also routinely engage in sexist online attacks. In March, we wrote about how Kianni, Greta Thunberg, and other women climate activists and scientists routinely weather storms of online abuse and petro-masculine climate disinformation. Just last week, Alex Epstein, climate denier Tony Heller, and others all badgered Kianni for the supposed crime of protecting her sanity by blocking climate change deniers who seem to think that digital catcalling is their immutable right.
So, don’t fall for any fossil-fueled woke-washing. Instead, channel your anger at polluting, climate disinformation-spreading billionaires into advocating for working class climate justice. And at a minimum, if you're a grown adult who is constantly posting about young women you disagree with but refuse to ignore, maybe go touch grass.