During his campaign, President Trump promised his constituents he would abandon the "costly" and "bad" Paris climate accord in order to step back from international action on climate change, which he believes to be unnecessary.
This announcement was cheered loudly by Trump supporters, and, predictably, panned hard by critics. The issue of what to do about the environment is one of the most caustic and divisive issues in American politics today.
Even local politicians at the municipal level are facing tough questions about the environment, so political public relations on this question is creating some rough sledding at every level of government.
For years now, certain groups have lined up on opposite sides of the issue, with coal and other fossil fuel industry supporters clashing with the EPA and environmental groups.
Voters, too, picked a team and stuck with the narrative. Through those years both sides were effective in distributing that narrative to their fans, who dutifully repeated those phrases and terms and rhetorical questions at the office, at parties and, ad nauseam on social media. But, recently, there’s been a bit of a defection. It has people on both sides scratching their heads.
Oil giant ExxonMobil is urging the president not to give up on the Paris climate accords.
According to their statement, released by various media outlets, ExxonMobil believes the Paris agreement is "an effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change . . . "
Further, ExxonMobil insists the United States is "well positioned to compete" under the terms of the deal, which is in direct opposition to the consistent message President Trump has been delivering on this topic since the early days of his campaign. A message he has repeated since assuming the presidency.
This switch might create a real political conundrum for the president on several levels.
Outside Washington, D.C. he had grassroots support from people, especially those who support or depend on the fossil fuel industry.
Now those folks appear to be splintering.
But there’s potential for trouble inside his inner circle as well. Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, seems to have a different position on the issue than his boss. Trump called climate change "a hoax."
During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson said, " . . . the risk of climate change does exist, and the consequences could be serious enough that action should be taken . . . "
So, what can Trump and his team do to unite what appears to be a disparate message on climate science? They need to focus on where they have agreement. There is a strong point of agreement between Tillerson, ExxonMobil, and Trump — Kyoto.
That particular climate agreement, according to ExxonMobil, is fundamentally different than Paris — and according to them — it’s bad for American interests, because other important nations are not on board.
This statement could be a jumping-off point for an entirely new narrative on this issue for all parties involved. A collective and unified message that brings their supporters back together on message, "Everyone needs to have skin in the game . . . one agreement does that, another does not."
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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