For over a century, we have, as a planet, been burning fossil fuels at an ever-increasing rate, releasing emissions into the atmosphere with the kinds of hazardous effects we are just now realizing the full extent of. I know, it’s a heavy topic. Climate change is happening at a rate unprecedented in recorded history and it seems as if everyone is looking for someone to point a finger at. But, who is really to blame? Is it the individual who overuses fossil fuels? Is it the government? Is it the result of “big oil”? Richard Heede, of the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado has published a paper suggesting that the blame rests with just a handful of major companies.
I’m sure you can imagine that many people have something to say about this!
Ben Schiller, staff writer for Fast Company, wrote a great blog post (complete with visual aids) to help us all understand Richard Heede’s paper, driving home just how accountable major corporations are in regards to climate change:
“The question of who has accelerated climate change the most isn’t that complicated. It was just a few dozen companies that extracted the majority of our oil, gas, and coal over the last 150 years, allowing the fuel to be burned, and the emissions to cause havoc in the atmosphere.
…Heede wants us to reframe our thinking about climate responsibility. Instead of governments, he asks us to point a finger at the major corporations. ‘You can look at this as coming from 7 billion people or 200 countries, or you can look at it as coming from these institutions, the heads of which could all fit on a bus together,’ he says in a press release.
Heede spent years combing through libraries, stock-market filings, and other sources. He took account of when companies merged or formed partnerships, and disregarded businesses that didn’t ‘produce’ 8 megatons worth of emissions in a single year.
Personally, I find it a bit unfair to blame companies for creating products we all use regularly, (as others have noted). But this study may be as much about the future as it is accounting for the past. If we’re going to avoid catastrophic global warming, these companies at some point will have to stop digging and pumping. It’s not fair to blame them for what happened in 1850, when nothing was known about heat-trapping gases. It will be possible to blame them in 2050, when the planet’s warmer than ever.”
What do you think? Is it fair to point the finger only at major corporations or do we share some of the responsibility as daily users of energy?
Picture from: nature.org