Faculty must fight misinformation about climate change – The GW Hatchet

Fossil fuel industry leaders and their financiers have repeatedly and deliberately misled the public about science and solutions to climate change in an attempt to block climate policy. But they don’t stop there – they have long tried to influence research related to climate policy and undermine academic freedom for their own benefit through funding for research centers, including at GW. That’s one of the reasons I stand with Sunrise GW members and encourage every faculty member to take the organization’s Fossil Fuel No Money Pledge. Taking this promise tells students that we take our responsibility to protect the University and its students from dishonest and dangerous attempts to seriously undermine the healthy exchange of ideas.

As a faculty member of the School of Media and Public Affairs and one of this year’s Terker Distinguished Fellows – a program that brings professionals from the media, political communications, and public affairs fields to SMPA each academic year – I believe this is critical to protecting the integrity of information. . As leaders in the field of public information, we must guard against the misinformation that is rampant in today’s world, especially as it permeates the work we do at GW.

The Rising Sun Movement is a youth campaign whose mission is to make climate change an urgent priority in the United States, end the corrupt influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics and elect leaders who defend the health and well-being of the people. In 2020, Sunrise GW and other student groups successfully pressured GW to release its endowment from the fossil fuel industry after a week of student protests in February of that year and after Georgetown University and America announced their own plans to divest from the industry.

To end the industry’s influence at GW once and for all, Sunrise GW is now urging faculty and Universities to take their Fossil Fuel No Money Pledge to refuse lectures or fees from fossil fuel companies. Sunrise GW asked the GW administration and the Board of Trustees to enforce a funding ban from Slippery Six – the six companies and organizations Congress asked for their roles in the “Disinformation Campaign to Prevent Climate Action” – and from the top 10 funders of the related US counter climate change movement.

I fully support Sunrise GW’s cause and sign this pledge because these young people are taking decisive and coordinated action to end an era of destructive climate lies and denial. We must respect their leadership and ensure the University is in line with its student values ​​and on the side of truth. With its focus on honesty and intellectual responsibility, the School of Media and Public Relations must take a firm stand against disinformation. Ensuring every faculty member and the University itself signs this pledge is critical to protecting the integrity of information, especially if there is a relationship with GW.

The hard truth is that the fossil fuel industry exerts a significant influence on GW, against the principles of independent research. A 2019 report by Public Citizen found that the Regulatory Studies Center has received more than $1 million in funding from ExxonMobil and the Charles Koch Foundation since its founding in 2007. The Public Citizen report concludes that the RSC research strongly supports the results that are beneficial to fossils. the fuel industry and provide “scientific rationale for government regulation” that would reduce pollution or combat climate change. A 2021 report by Jake Lowe, a researcher with the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s Redstone Center for Global Wellness, found that “RSC is an ally of chemical producers, the fossil fuel industry and a broad network of wealthy ultra-conservative donors. ”

GW’s Sunrise has great potential to achieve its goals with a precedent of no funding from industry groups at GW. In 2018, Milken imposed an embargo on academic funding from the tobacco industry to protect his work from the influence of a professional field known for unethical interference in academic research. Many other academic institutions have imposed similar bans, including the Harvard School of Public Health, which adopted a tobacco financing ban in 2002. “The fossil fuel industry’s rejection and delay tactics come straight from the Big Tobacco playbook,” George Mason University Center for Climate Change has stated.

GW can’t let its affiliation with a fossil fuel company diminish its stellar reputation. Even the emergence of funding from the fossil fuel industry that impacts research and operations at GW creates a damaging conflict of interest, and there is already evidence that the impact is very real. Allowing fossil fuel companies to join the GW institutions that stand to thwart climate action – this gives them credibility, gives them a social license to operate and contributes to greenwashing campaigns in which they deceptively market themselves as environmentally friendly.

The faculty must stand with Sunrise GW students determined to disengage GW from an industry that not only denies climate change but puts millions of dollars in efforts to manipulate research and mislead the public. We have a responsibility to protect and strengthen the truth. Dozens of faculties have taken the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, and I urge every lecturer to do so. By acting together and supporting the efforts of GW Sunrise students, we can take a stand against the architects of the climate crisis.

Kristen Grimm is president of Spitfire Strategies, a women-owned strategic communications firm, part-time faculty member and Terker Member of the School of Media and Public Affairs.

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