Now, more than ever, politics and public relations seem to be intersecting. Part of this is because everything seems to be politicized these days. Part of it has to do with how many politically active consumers – on the left and on the right – are going directly after brands that offend their political perspective.
Well, individual brands are one thing, but now millions of consumers are coming together to go after an entire industry. Coastal cities in California are coming after oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell, demanding these top oil industry businesses cough up billions to pay for seawalls and other protections against rising sea levels.
How does this intersect? Because these cities are blaming climate change for the rising seas … and they blame climate change, primarily, on big oil.
The impetus for this action came initially from the San Francisco Bay area. Both San Francisco and Oakland have filed lawsuits against these oil companies in an effort to, as the media put it, “shift the costs of climate change from the public to fossil fuel companies.”
In a statement, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said: “These fossil fuel companies profited handsomely for decades while knowing they were putting the fate of our cities at risk…”
Oakland officials added to that indictment, saying rising sea levels will “disproportionately impact and endanger minorities…” Their complaint also mentioned the city airport.
And that’s the foundation for these cities’ argument, which is supported by a great many citizens of these cities.
This might be an open and shut case of “who’s to blame” but the issue is inflamed with political rage. Millions believe climate change to be a clear and present danger. They are making consumer decisions and political decisions in support of that mindset. They believe today’s hurricanes and other natural disasters are worse than they were in the past due to climate change.
Meanwhile, millions of other American consumers and voters believe all that’s nonsense. Some in this group agree the climate is shifting, but they don’t put the blame on humans, much less laying it at the feet of the oil companies.
Placing any conversation about this on that foundation, there is no way it doesn’t get political. And that means a lot of heat and emotion, and precious little polite discussion about the issue.
The lawsuit is definitely meant to be both a gauntlet thrown down and a litmus test. Both for the culpability of the oil industry and the nation’s tolerance for taking this debate to the next level.