Who is responsible for most climate change?

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By one accounting, 90 companies. Richard Heede …

…(pronounced “Heedie”) has compiled a massive database quantifying who has been responsible for taking carbon out of the ground and putting it into the atmosphere. Working alone, with uncertain funding, he spent years piecing together the annual production of every major fossil fuel company since the Industrial Revolution and converting it to carbon emissions.

[source]

See the graphic at the top of the post. There is an interactive version HERE, with much more detail.

Heede is one of the victim’s of Lamar Smith’s McCarthy-esque attack on climate scientists. (Smith is currently being opposed in his run for Congress by Tom Wakely, who is running in large part on a climate change ticket. I suggest you donate an amount of money that has the numerals “350” to Wakely. I did.)

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24 thoughts on “Who is responsible for most climate change?

  1. Why blame the companies who are selling their legal products?

    Why not blame the consumers who are driving the cars using gas or using electricity produced by coal?

    Yes – fossil fuel companies help put carbon into the atmosphere – I agree.

    But is the solution to stop burning fossil fuels?

    I think not.

    Alternative energy cannot yet provide enough energy to fill the gap if we stop using fossil fuels.

    Nuclear could – but we would have to build a bunch of reactors.

    Bottom line – the fossil fuel companies are not forcing me to buy gasoline or electricity. Are they forcing you?

    1. Yes, Rick, that is a standard denialist response to this.

      And to some extent consumers can be blamed. But the vast majority of people who consume products ultimately made by these companies have nearly zero choice in the matter. So, you are blaming the victim. Which does fit nicely with your usual lower than a snake approach to life. So I am not surprised.

      And yes, the only solution is to stop burning fossil fuels. Obviously, this is a transition but one that needs to be sped up.

      I’m not surprised you don’t get the nuances here. Because, these particular nuances are as plain on as the nose on your face.

  2. Also, I should point out: You don’t blame a company that produces a product that kills people and destroy’s civilization, per se. You blame a company that knows, from its internal research as documented by internal documents, that its product kills people/destroys civilization/etc. and hides that fact and continues to produce and promote the product. You blame a company that continues to do this after everyone else also knows how bad the product is. You blame a company that spends tens or hundreds of millions of dollars hiding or repressing this truth, or lobbying for political cover, while continuing to produce and promote the product.

  3. Standard RickA:

    “Why blame serial killers loose in society who are murdering people?

    “Why not blame the public who are walking the streets and easily victimized?

    “Yes – serial murderers are killing our citizens – I agree.

    “But is the solution to stop these psychopaths from killing people?

    “I think not.

    “Bottom line – murderers stalking our citizens aren’t forcing me to stay off the streets. Are they forcing you?”

  4. Ha Ha.

    I don’t remember any of the advertising trying to convince me that hydrocarbons didn’t have carbon in them.

    This isn’t like the tobacco companies, selling something which is optional.

    Hydrocarbons are the reason we have civilization.

    We cannot (yet) get along without them.

    Personally – I don’t blame xcel for burning hydrocarbons for the electricity I use or any fossil fuel company for the fossil fuels I use.

    I like driving a car and turning on lights – and have no plans to stop using.

    Therefore, we need a steady supply of fossil fuels for electricity and gasoline.

    At least until someone invents something better and cheaper which doesn’t use fossil fuels.

    That hasn’t happened yet.

    There is an awful lot of wishful thinking going on here.

  5. Even the dirtiest fuel – coal – saves more lives than it kills.

    We know this because there are a lot more people on the planet than there were when we started using coal industrially.

    It is a net positive.

    Nuclear is better than coal, but more expensive.

  6. “You blame a company that knows, from its internal research as documented by internal documents, that its product kills people/destroys civilization/etc. and hides that fact and continues to produce and promote the product. ”

    Aye, but a lot of the consumers do this, too. The research is out there, publicly available, that shows that CO2 causes warming. But a good chunk of the public refuses to get educated or face reality.

    I don’t see any reason to blame the oil companies more than their eager customers.

  7. How “eager” would their customers be if their product weren’t available, or were priced more realistically so that gasoline was $20/gallon? How “eager” then? Whoops…

  8. “You don’t blame a company that produces a product that kills people and destroy’s civilization, per se. ”

    I am certainly no denier, but my reaction to this article (saw it elsewhere) was also that it is WE, not oil companies, that take that legal product and burn it in our cars and furnaces. We are the ones that convert liquid hydrocarbons into greenhouse gases.

    I definitely, however, agree with you, Greg, that the denier propaganda campaign is despicable. I think these bad actors are guilty of Crimes Against Humanity.

    But that is not what this article is tracking, is it? Nor is the legal sale of petroleum products what these scoundrels should be prosecuted for. For that matter, neither is their so-called shareholder fraud, as far as I am concerned. But their real crime does not seem to resonate, which drives me crazy.

  9. The fossil fuel problem is definitely multifaceted, exacerbated by ignorance and selfishness that is opposed to knowledge and societal interest. The stubborn intransigence of he-who-must-not-be-named is a perfect example. His egotistical attempts to boost his testosterone by bravely taking on “the enemy” at every chance he oh so bravely defends the positions of the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful, would be comical were it not so tragically and pathologically stupid.

    It would be easy for Americans in particular to cut their energy use and in particular their fossil fuel energy use to a small fraction of what it has been in the recent past. I know. I’ve done it. And my life style is better, not worse, for it. But the conservative wing of the monkey house is geared to maintaining a wasteful status quo in which the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful maintain their lifestyles while mismanaging the planet into a sterile desert. It is a situation in which the very attitudes and blindness that allow conservatives to prosper in the short term are proving to be detrimental to their own long term interests and the interests of the rest of humanity and all of life on the planet.

    And that is because Conservative values are leaning ever more towards a Duck Dynasty, NASCAR, Trumpist, gun loving, xenophobic, anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, bronze-age or even neolithic mentality. So yeah, go play golf, boys. Go coal rolling, boys. Denigrate science and scientists, boys.

    You. Are. Going. To. Get. Smacked. Big Time.
    Nature and Nature’s God Bats Last.

    Have a nice day.

  10. “I am certainly no denier, but my reaction to this article (saw it elsewhere) was also that it is WE, not oil companies, that take that legal product and burn it in our cars and furnaces”

    That WE includes every company. And they use most of it, in fact.

    Consider: how much electricity generation the “WE” you imply (incorrectly) as “the individual citizenry” undertake. Yet most of that is fossil fuel sourced and alternatives that are zero emissions are being blocked.

    And look how Tesla is being forced out of states by insisting that they cannot trade in that state, for a large other source of that implied “we” you use.

    And lastly, attempts to cut back or employ different systems are being stymied at the behest of those you insist are nearly exonerated of blame because “we” (as you claim) use the products they sell.

  11. Wow

    The article referenced indicts companies that take crude oil out of the ground for taking oil out of the ground. That appears to be the total analysis.

    Not companies that burn that carbon for their own use, or to make electricity. Not companies that block RE or block Tesla.

    And where did I exonerate companies that fight RE? Answer: nowhere.

  12. Dean @ 14.
    Wow. Nice. Very nice. So there is a glimmer of hope out there. Insurance actuaries are no fools. Unlike the bloody gd conservatives and their moronic “yes but” idiocy. I am sofa king sick of the stupidity of polluters and especially the fools and psychopaths who egg them on. Nice article. Thanks.

  13. I’ve long thought that you could simply appeal to the insurance companies for support & pressure. THEY’RE the ones who will lose first. They HAVE to help fight climate change or they’re sunk.

    Remember the first thing to implode in the Great Republican Recession of 2008 was AGI — an insurance company.

  14. Brainstorms:

    As Mr. Buffet pointed out, the insurance industry reprices its insurance annually.

    The worse things get the more money they make (because they price their insurance higher and higher).

    The insurance industry will not be sunk because of climate change.

    Mr. Buffet was lamenting the lack of a major 3 or higher hurricane hit on the USA as the profits were dropping for that type of insurance.

  15. On insurance companies, RickA actually gets this right. There seems to be a misapprehension that insurers wish to reduce costs (e.g. in healthcare); no, they wish to reduce payouts, and of course they wish to reduce competition.

    The motivations to actually reduce harm– e.g. auto insurers lobbying for airbags– are not simply determined, they obviously vary with circumstance.

    And this brings us to zebra’s favorite point, which is that we must ensure both a competitive (free) market in consumption as well as disincentives (e.g. tax) for producing CO2.

    The US Federal government has the ability to do the former in the areas mentioned by others, like RE and electrification of transport, by invoking interstate commerce powers.

  16. RickA: I just totally forgot that insurance industry customers are all bottomless pits of money and can happily fund any price increases, no matter how big.

    It all… just.. makes sense… Somehow.

    I’ll sleep better now, thank you.

  17. Brainstorms #19,

    Again, it depends. How widely is the risk shared? How much competition is there in the industry? And so on.

    It’s all about monopoly and regulatory capture, extending up to the Federal level. If we don’t subsidize flood insurance and don’t provide “disaster relief” beyond rescuing people in danger of physical harm, some areas will simply be abandoned– which is not a bad thing at all.

  18. Zebra, be careful. You’re starting to imply that there is no economic impact to “acts of destruction”. It’s not the zero-sum game people like RickA would have us believe.

  19. “Wow

    The article referenced indicts companies that take crude oil out of the ground for taking oil out of the ground. That appears to be the total analysis.”

    Uhm, if we don’t take it out of the ground, how do we burn it in our power stations and transport????

    You DO realise that there’s a rather important first step here, right?

  20. “Not companies that burn that carbon for their own use, or to make electricity. Not companies that block RE or block Tesla. ”

    But the whinge was that WE (the people, not corporations) are responsible for using up all the oil.

    WE
    DO
    NOT.

  21. “The worse things get the more money they make (because they price their insurance higher and higher).”

    Of course, there’s no money in the fossil fuel industry, and they don’t mind at all if the reserves are left where they are. No siree.

    Which is why PrickA doesn’t think that there’s any conspiracy to delay or refuse the reality of AGW and propping up a denial industry for the benefit of these corporations.

    But the INSURANCE COMPANIES, weeeeel, everyone knows they’re rapacious and evil money grabbing private industry (BUT DON’T YOU *DARE* PRIVATISE OR REGULATE IT, GUBMINT!!!)

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