The report released from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last week shook the world with the wake-up call that we only have 12 years to make major changes in order to avoid the worst of climate change. In thinking about this, it’s imperative that we consider more than just our own individual and community efforts to protect the planet; we need also to look towards big industries.
While it’s true that people in the US have higher average emissions than people in, say, Bangladesh, the average US resident emits very little compared to mega-companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron.
In a previous study, the Carbon Majors Report determined that 71% of global emissions come from just 100 companies that have a stronghold on the world’s economy. Furthermore, more than half of global industrial emissions since anthropogenic climate change became a known idea can be accounted for by 25 corporate and state producing entities.
“Fossil fuels are the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the world,” writes the report. “The fossil fuel industry and its products accounted for 91% of global industrial GHGs in 2015, and about 70% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. If the trend in fossil fuel extraction continues over the next 28 years as it has over the previous 28, then global average temperatures would be on course to rise around 4ºC above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.”
While three out of five Americans believe climate change affects their local community (and two-thirds of people living on US coasts), the disproportionate emissions that companies emit make it difficult to counteract the daily climate-friendly actions of a particular individual. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you should stop recycling!