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20 Fossil Fuel Companies Are Responsible for a Third of Carbon Emissions

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Chimneys and cooling tower of a coal fired power station in in dramatic sunset light. Schroptschop / E+ / Getty Images

New research has shown that just 20 fossil fuel companies have allowed their relentless greed to ignore decades of warnings about what their practices were doing to the world, as The Guardian reported. Their exploitation of the world's oil, gas and coal reserves is directly linked to more than one-third of the planet's carbon emissions.


The new research found that the top 20 companies on the list have contributed to 35 percent of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane emissions worldwide, which adds up to 480 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent since 1965. That date is notable, since in 1965, the president of the American Petroleum Institute informed his industry about research into climate change caused by fossil fuels. "The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world's peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out," said Frank Ikard in 1965, as Desmog reported.

That, along with many other warnings, has been thoroughly ignored and pushed the world into a climate crisis. In fact, it stands in stark contrast to the industry's current position, which was articulated by the head of OPEC, Mohammed Barkindo, who said this summer that climate activists are the biggest threat to the industry and they are making false claims that mislead the public with unscientific warnings about global warming, as EcoWatch reported.

"Civil society is being misled to believe oil is the cause of climate change," said Barkindo.

Twelve of the top 20 companies are state-owned. As a whole, they make up 20 percent of total emissions, lead by Saudi Aramco, which alone is responsible for over 4 percent of global emissions, according to the new analysis by the Climate Accountability Institute, as The Guardian reported.

As for investor-owned firms, California-based Chevron is the largest polluter, second behind Saudi Aramco and just ahead of Exxon. Household names Shell, BP, and ConocoPhillips also made the list. Exxon, Chevron and BP each donated $500,000 to Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017.

Michael Mann, one of the world's leading climate scientists, told The Guardian that the findings highlighted the outsized contribution that fossil fuel companies make to the climate crisis. He called on politicians at the forthcoming climate talks in Chile in December to take urgent measures to curtail industry activities.

"The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price – in the form of a degraded planet – so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits," said Mann to The Guardian. "It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen."

The study also buffers Elizabeth Warren's point during the climate town hall when she said industry needs to be held accountable, not individuals.

In response to a question Chris Cuomo asked her about light bulbs, she answered in exasperation, "Oh come on, give me a break," Warren said to Cuomo. "This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants us to be talking about. That's what they want us to talk about: This is your problem." She went on to say that the fossil fuel industry wants "to stir up a lot of controversy around your light bulbs, around your straws and around your cheeseburgers."

Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute, who led the research seemed to back her statement

"These companies and their products are substantially responsible for the climate emergency, have collectively delayed national and global action for decades, and can no longer hide behind the smokescreen that consumers are the responsible parties," he said to The Guardian."Oil, gas, and coal executives derail progress and offer platitudes when their vast capital, technical expertise, and moral obligation should enable rather than thwart the shift to a low-carbon future."

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