Climate Accountability has published a report based on the work of Richard Heede and others which tracks the carbon dioxide attributable to corporations around the world since the Industrial Revolution began. It finds just 90 corporations have been responsible for two thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions during that period, and a mere 20 of them are responsible for 30%.
Speaking to The Guardian, noted climate scientist Michael E. Mann said the findings shine a light on the role of fossil fuel companies and called on politicians at the forthcoming climate talks in Chile in December to take urgent measures to rein in their activities.
“The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price — in the form of a degraded planet — so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen.”
The Climate Accountability Institute was established as a nonprofit research and educational organization in September, 2017 by Richard Heede, Naomi Oreskes, and Greg Erwin. According to its home page,
“The Climate Accountability Institute engages in research and education on anthropogenic climate change, dangerous interference with the climate system, and the contribution of fossil fuel producers’ carbon production to atmospheric carbon dioxide content.
“This encompasses the science of climate change, the civil and human rights associated with a stable climate regime not threatened by climate-destabilizing emissions of greenhouse gases, and the risks, liabilities, and disclosure requirements regarding past and future emissions of greenhouse gases attributable to primary carbon producers.
“Our vision is for a world protected from the social, economic, and environmental damages of climate change. Our mission is to use climate accountability as a fulcrum for climate stewardship. Our strategy is to leverage accountability by carbon producers into using their skills, capital, and resources to aid rather than oppose the transition to a low-carbon or zero-carbon energy future.”
What is especially troubling is the rapid growth in fossil fuel consumption during the last third of the 20th century, when the dangers of carbon emissions and global warming were known to all companies in the fossil fuel industry. Total emissions have more than doubled since then.
Richard Heede tells The Guardian, “These companies and their products are substantially responsible for the climate emergency, have collectively delayed national and global action for decades, and can no longer hide behind the smokescreen that consumers are the responsible parties. Oil, gas, and coal executives derail progress and offer platitudes when their vast capital, technical expertise, and moral obligation should enable rather than thwart the shift to a low-carbon future.”
He adds that 1965 was chosen as the start point for this new data analysis because recent research had revealed that by that stage the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known by industry leaders and politicians, particularly in the US.
A study by Influence Map published earlier this year showed the top 5 investor owned energy companies have together spent more than a billion dollars on lobbying efforts to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change. since the Paris Climate Accords were signed in December of 2015.
Richard Heede says these companies have a “significant moral, financial, and legal responsibility for the climate crisis, and a commensurate burden to help address the problem. Even though global consumers from individuals to corporations are the ultimate emitters of carbon dioxide, the Climate Accountability Institute focuses its work on the fossil fuel companies that, in our view, have their collective hand on the throttle and the tiller determining the rate of carbon emissions and the shift to non-carbon fuels.”
For more on this topic, please watch the video created by The Guardian posted below.