Fossil Fuel Companies Cause 1/3 Of All Carbon Emissions


We know that the burning of fossil fuels is one of the most significant contributors to the climate crisis. While cars and even public transport, where the switch hasn’t yet been made to electric or other fuel sources, are using fossil fuels, they are contributing a fraction of the overall amount of carbon emissions, compared to just 20 fossil fuel companies. These few companies are causing damage to the environment that billions will bear the brunt of, while they profit (and have been for decades).

Article: Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions – The Guardian

Key points on the impact of fossil fuel companies on the environment:

The TL;DR for this article. Here we present the main takeaways:

  • A total of 20 fossil fuel companies have been named as the cause of ‘more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era’.
    • This list was compiled using ‘company-reported annual production of oil, natural gas, and coal’. Calculations could then be applied to figure out the end-to-end carbon and methane production.
    • Data was used from 1965 to present day, with 1965 chosen as it was the point in time when the impact of fossil fuels was known by industry leaders and politicians (in the US).
    • These companies include investor owned firms and state owned companies around the world.
  • The aim of the research was to prove the accountability of those companies having the biggest impact on carbon emissions and to ‘shift public and political debate away from a focus just on individual responsibility’.
  • A small number of companies had to biggest impacts:
    • 4 companies topped the list: Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell. Together they account for 10% of all carbon emissions, globally, since 1965.
    • 12 of the companies are state owned and account for 20% of total emissions since 1965.
    • One company, Saudi Aramco, is responsible for producing a little over 4% on it’s own.
  • Both the processes and the products caused environmental damage, though not in equal measure: 
    • 90% of the emissions from these 20 companies came from use of their products, namely ‘petrol, jet fuel, natural gas, and thermal coal’.
    • 10% came from ‘extracting, refining, and delivering the finished fuels.’
  • All of these companies profited while their products and processes damaged the environment.
  • Many of the companies were reported to be investing in renewable or low carbon energy sources, with some recognising the role of fossil fuels in the climate crisis and others disputed how much of an impact their sector had had on the environment.

What’s The Solution?

Ending the use of fossil fuels is the ultimate goal, but untangling the ways in which fossil fuels are being used and replacing them with alternatives will take time. Especially as the companies will only do the bear minimum, such as complying with the rules and regulations that their countries follow. Which means that tighter restrictions being put into law will go a long way to making change happen faster. 

Ultimately, if these companies are going to lose out of profits, they won’t be motivated to make changes, despite the clear danger to the environment. Where possible, sectors need to move away from using fossil fuels, which can be affected by consumer demand. For example, more reliance on electric power over gas changes the demand, less flights means a lower need for fuel.

Read The Reference, Check The Source

You can find it here: Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions – The Guardian

It includes data from the following sources:

Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010 – Richard Heede, Climate Accountability Institute