Many of us are worried
about the climate crisis. Many of us feel guilty.
Many of us want to try to fix the problem.
But where should we focus our efforts?
Well, here’s one place we could start.
New research commissionned by the Guardian has shown
that just 20 fossil fuel companies are directly related
to more than a third of the greenhouse gases
that have been wrecking our climate since industry
became aware of the risks, in the 1960s.
So however much we care about our personal consumption,
what really matters is political action
to rein in the oil, gas and coal companies.
Among privately owned firms, Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell
are high on the list of climate polluters, which is topped by
Saudi Aramco and Gazprom. They and 14 other companies
have drilled and pumped out the equivalent of 480 billion tonnes
of carbon dioxide since 1965. Billions of us around the world
use their products every day to fuel our cars or heat our homes.
So we’re all partly responsible.
But the fossil fuel industry was warned about the risks
a long time ago yet it has funded campaigns
since then to spread doubt about climate science.
In 1965 the US president’s Scientific Advisory Committee
warned that fossil fuels were causing more carbon dioxide
which was altering the air on a global scale with
huge risks for humankind. Soon after that,
the head of the American Petroleum Institute
warned the industry that “Time [was] running out”
to deal with this. In 1981, an internal Exxon
memo warns “it is distinctly possible”
that CO2 emissions from the company’s 50-year plan
“will later produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic
(at least for a substantial fraction of the earth’s population).”
But then, 20 years later, Exxon decided to take out
an ad in the New York Times and deliberately tried to
play down the connection. Skip forward another two decades,
and Chevron, Exxon, and BP each donate more than
half a million dollars to the inauguration campaign
of Donald Trump, perhaps the world’s most
famous climate denier. Given the sheer weight
of scientific knowledge and public concern,
you’d think the petroleum industry would be trying to pull
less oil and gas out of the ground.
But you’d be wrong. They’re actually planning
to pump out more, which would destroy any chance we have
of keeping global temperatures
at a safe level. So reining in our dependence
on fossil fuels, and ramping up the transition to renewable energy
has never been more important both for us and
countless generations to come. But that’s not just about
personal choices. It’s about political action.