Taking Responsibility for Climate Change

As much as I want to help curb climate change by recycling and using less energy, the fact is that big business is at the epicenter of climate change. Nearly all political discussion surrounding the climate is motivated by corporate interests and economic output, and in turn by the groups and lobbyists those companies employ to fight for or against climate policy. The NY Times article Industry Awakens to the Threat of Climate Change was encouraging in the sense that companies such as Nike and Coca-Cola are now accounting for climate effects (albeit because they are affecting the companies bottom lines). So I was curious what other companies are taking initiatives to reduce their climate impacts, and who are the biggest climate effectors? This lead me to the work of geographer Richard Heede. Mr. Heede “spent years” researching the annual production of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world and using those numbers to create a record of their carbon emissions. His research found that nearly two thirds of all carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution (1751) are accounted for by only 90 companies (either directly or indirectly i.e. selling gas to consumers like myself), half of which has been emitted after 1988. 90 companies! That was amazing to me. Obviously, the ExxonMobil’s and Chevron’s of the world cannot and should not be held responsible for the entirety of climate change. But at the same time, it makes clear that huge steps could be taken in reducing global carbon emissions by the action of a few key players. By encouraging these companies to invest in, share, and create/expand practices for energy efficiency and renewable technologies, not only would they more quickly move to renewables, but would protect their bottom lines when fossil fuels inevitably become highly regulated or simply exhausted. Some fossil fuel giants such as ExxonMobil and BP have, in fact, launched their own initiatives to create more sustainable business practices and invested in research and development to reduce their carbon impact. However, I have to imagine that if they spent half as much money on sustainable technologies as they do on lobbying and protecting their practices of old, we could move much more quickly on achieving goals related to reduced carbon emissions. At least, I would propose a council of the leading fossil fuel company executives in which they could outline promising technologies or techniques for a sustainable future, create open information sharing, and create a competitive marketplace for adapting and implementing such practices. It should also be illegal to hire scientists who have no academic background or qualifications and have them lobby the government and American people in the sole interest of corporate profit… But that discussion may be for another time.




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