I’ll just put this item from UCS here for your interest:
Study Finds Top Fossil Fuel Producers’ Emissions Responsible for as Much as Half of Global Surface Temperature Increase, Roughly 30 Percent of Global Sea Level Rise
Findings Provide New Data to Hold Companies Responsible for Climate Change
WASHINGTON (September 7, 2017)—A first-of-its-kind study published today in the scientific journal Climatic Change links global climate changes to the product-related emissions of specific fossil fuel producers, including ExxonMobil and Chevron. Focusing on the largest gas, oil and coal producers and cement manufacturers, the study calculated the amount of sea level rise and global temperature increase resulting from the carbon dioxide and methane emissions from their products as well as their extraction and production processes.
The study quantified climate change impacts of each company’s carbon and methane emissions during two time periods: 1880 to 2010 and 1980 to 2010. By 1980, investor-owned fossil fuel companies were aware of the threat posed by their products and could have taken steps to reduce their risks and share them with their shareholders and the general public.
“We’ve known for a long time that fossil fuels are the largest contributor to climate change,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, lead author and director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “What’s new here is that we’ve verified just how much specific companies’ products have caused the Earth to warm and the seas to rise.”
The study builds on a landmark 2014 study by Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute, one of the co-authors of the study published today. Heede’s study, which also was published in Climatic Change, determined the amount of carbon dioxide and methane emissions that resulted from the burning of products sold by the 90 largest investor- and state-owned fossil fuel companies and cement manufacturers.
Ekwurzel and her co-authors inputted Heede’s 2014 data into a simple, well-established climate model that captures how the concentration of carbon emissions increases in the atmosphere, trapping heat and driving up global surface temperature and sea level. The model allowed Ekwurzel et al. to ascertain what happens when natural and human contributions to climate change, including those linked to the companies’ products, are included or excluded.
The study found that:
<li>Emissions traced to the 90 largest carbon producers contributed approximately 57 percent?of the observed rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, nearly 50 percent of the rise in global average temperature, and around 30 percent of global sea level rise since 1880.</li> <li>Emissions linked to 50 investor-owned carbon producers, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Peabody, Shell and Total, were responsible for roughly 16 percent of the global average temperature increase from 1880 to 2010, and around 11 percent of the global sea level rise during the same time frame.</li> <li>Emissions tied to the same 50 companies from 1980 to 2010, a time when fossil fuel companies were aware their products were causing global warming, contributed approximately 10 percent of the global average temperature increase and about 4 percent sea level rise since 1880.</li> <li>Emissions traced to 31 majority state-owned companies, including Coal India, Gazprom, Kuwait Petroleum, Pemex, Petroleos de Venezuela, National Iranian Oil Company and Saudi Aramco, were responsible for about 15 percent of the global temperature increase and approximately 7 percent of the sea level rise between 1880 and 2010.</li>
“Until a decade or two ago, no corporation could be held accountable for the consequences of their products’ emissions because we simply didn’t know enough about what their impacts were,” said Myles Allen, a study co-author and professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford in England. “This study provides a framework for linking fossil fuel companies’ product-related emissions to a range of impacts, including increases in ocean acidification and deaths caused by heat waves, wildfires and other extreme weather-related events. We hope that the results of this study will inform policy and civil society debates over how best to hold major carbon producers accountable for their contributions to the problem.”
The question of who is responsible for climate change and who should pay for its related costs has taken on growing urgency as climate impacts worsen and become costlier. In New York City alone, officials estimate that it will cost more than $19 billion to adapt to climate change. Globally, adaptation cost projections are equally astronomical. The U.N. Environment Programme estimates that developing countries will need $140 billion to $300 billion annually by 2030 and $280 billion to $500 billion annually by 2050 to adapt.
The debate over responsibility for climate mitigation and adaptation has long focused on the “common but differentiated responsibilities” of nations, a framework used for the Paris climate negotiations. Attention has increasingly turned to non-state actors, particularly the major fossil fuel producers.
“At the start of the Industrial Revolution, very few people understood that carbon dioxide emissions progressively undermine the stability of the climate as they accumulate in the atmosphere, so there was nothing blameworthy about selling fossil fuels to those who wanted to buy them,” said Henry Shue, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Oxford and author of a commentary on the ethical implications of the Ekwurzel et al. paper that was published simultaneously in Climatic Change. “But circumstances have changed radically in light of evidence that a number of investor-owned companies have long understood the harm of their products, yet carried out a decades-long campaign to sow doubts about those harms in order to ensure fossil fuels would remain central to global energy production. Companies knowingly violated the most basic moral principle of ‘do no harm,’ and now they must remedy the harm they caused by paying damages and their proportion of adaptation costs.”
Had ExxonMobil, for example, acted on its own scientists’ research about the risks of its products, climate change likely would be far more manageable today.
“Fossil fuel companies could have taken any number of steps, such as investing in clean energy or carbon capture and storage, but many chose instead to spend millions of dollars to try to deceive the public about climate science to block sensible limits on carbon emissions,” said Peter Frumhoff, a study co-author and director of science and policy at UCS. “Taxpayers, especially those living in vulnerable coastal communities, should not have to bear the high costs of these companies’ irresponsible decisions by themselves.”
Ekwurzel et al.’s study may inform approaches for juries and judges to calculate damages in such lawsuits as ones filed by two California counties and the city of Imperial Beach in July against 37 oil, gas and coal companies, claiming they should pay for damages from sea level rise. Likewise, the study should bolster investor campaigns to force fossil fuel companies to disclose their legal vulnerabilities and the risks that climate change poses to their finances and material assets.
34 thoughts on “Top fossil fuel producers caused half of global warming, third of sea level rise”
Damn those fossil fuel companies for producing products that everybody needs and buys!
I bet that 25% of the remaining 50% of global warming is caused by farmers producing food! Damn those farmer for producing food that I eat to survive!
The solution – stop producing fossil fuels and food.
Simple. Problem solved.
It’s a fact that mainly mankind itself is to blame for the pollution of earth and atmosphere with accelerated climate change and earth change as consequence. We don’t need being amazed by the outcome of the study mentioned. The report of the Club of Rome 1972 ‘The Limits to Growth’ had already established the same. What will the states and corporations of this world and organizations like the UN do about it? Silencing or censoring this study, or will they take appropriate action to safe mankind? Or will they be out of control? What do we do ourselves about is? What can we expect? Shall mankind wallow itself in blaming and shaming or will mankind unite and take control as far as possible?
Please read the OP properly before defecating in comments:
No, RickA has it right. The companies are producing what the public wants to buy. Clean energy is not cheaper than fossil fuels. If it were, there would be no need for further discussion of global warming, as well over 90% of the problem would take care of itself as developing countries adopted it(I still don’t entirely understand your objection regarding infrastructure). Declaring they are guilty for not providing a more expensive product is just going after deep pocketed companies.
Read the OP. Then re-read the bit quoted above. The problem here is corporate, for-profit mendacity and the consequent distortion of public policy.
RickA is not right because, like you, he hasn’t read the fucking words.
They did read them. They choose ignore the message.
“The problem here is corporate, for-profit mendacity and the consequent distortion of public policy.”
Could not agree more. But….
That is not what the headline or the published research behind the headline was about. It very clearly is making that argument that Exxon is responsible for the GHG’s emitted when their products are burned.
But, this is not their crime. Fossil fuels have to be burned to make GHG’s. Exxon’s products burned exactly the way they were advertised to do. They make our cars go and our houses warm and our industrial processes work. Just the way we all pay them (through the nose, btw)to do.
Their crimes are exactly what you point out. Plus, I would add, the morbidity and mortality and the external costs of greenhouse gases.
But this is not the first time I have seen this same invalid argument made against Exxon, et al. But where is the discussion on their real crimes, I ask you?
Greg – how about an article on the proposed changes to the Crimes Against Humanity laws which would allow environmental crimes to be prosecuted?
How is the deliberate lying and subversion of the political process not exactly like the legality of giving a toddler a loaded pistol?
How is the deliberately false propaganda campaign against renewable energy, which will kill billions (the U.N. has already said it has killed millions), not exactly as worthy of prosecution for Crimes Against Humanity as were the propaganda efforts of Joseph Goebbels, who never physically injured a human being himself?
IMHO, these are the questions we should be reading studies and treatises about, not that Exxon sold us a lot of gasoline.
The elephants in the room are the explosive growth of word population, especially since the industrial revolution, and the increase in the urbanization of that population, made increasingly easy by the substitution of petroleum-powered machinery in agriculture for human labor. The U. S. although not the fastest growing human population, has added almost 190 million people since 1940 and the urban population has grown from a minority percentage to a great majority.
Some people seem unable to conceptualize a life different from the one they are now living, as if it were the only possibility. Their and my not too remote descendants will ne following a very different way of living unless oil reserves are somehow growing — and fast enough to keep pace with the increasing population.
I read recently that the GOP in control of one of the states (probably one of the old Confederacy decided that sustainability would no longer be part of its planning. (I wasn’t aware that it was given much more than lip service anyway. Profits always come first, don’t they?)
My view is that demand for fossil fuels is what gets fossil fuels produced.
If everybody stopped using fossil fuels, fossil fuel companies would produce less.
Just like if everybody stopped smoking, Tobacco companies would produce less cigarettes.
Just like if everybody stopped drinking alcohol, less alcohol would be produced.
Just like if everybody stopped using illegal drugs, less illegal drugs would be produced.
Blaming the fossil fuel companies is silly.
Tyvor, most population projections have a peak later this century. Many of the most developed countries have below replacement level birth rates, and only immigration is keeping the population high, while Japan will shrink if their oldsters ever die.
I don’t think the relevant point here is that they did this bad thing. I agree with RickA, we all bought the fuel.
To me, the relevant point is that the government can take over and liquidate a very small number of companies and be done with the whole fossil fuel thing.
First we have to get rid of Trump, though.
Do you really advocate the government taking over and liquidating the fossil fuel companies?
I think that fossil fuels are still net beneficial and therefore there would be net harm caused by that action. Maybe after 2 degrees C (give or take 1/2 degree) more warming, fossil fuels will be net harmful – but that is not the case today (in my opinion).
Rick, he likely supports government taking over all companies.
‘Liquidating’ fossil fuel companies, what an apt phrase.
No, it is correct. They lied for profit and in doing so, distorted public policy and delayed the onset of decarbonisation by at least two decades. That is a crime against humanity.
How ironic that you mention the Tobacco Companies.
The point is, both the Tobacco Companies and the Fossil Fuel Companies knew the truth but covered it up and lied to protect their bottom line.
Had the Tobacco Companies come clean back in the 1960s, many people who took up smoking would not have done so. Had the Fossil Fuel Companies come clean in the late 1970s, extensive research into alternatives to fossil fuels would have been done and less warming would have occurred.
Saying that if people stopped smoking the Tobacco Companies would have produced less cigarettes is disingenuous. As BBD points out:
#7 ” through the nose “..
No. Its all extraordinarily good value. Many people dont understand how cheap energy is. Usually rich people.
I cant state this strongly enough.
Diesel is gobsmackingly cheap.
It would be good value at AUD10 a litre.
And LPG! Wow. Cheap as chips.
Its a real mystery to me why people feel liquid fuels are dear.
I think mostly its because they have not done any physical labour
to understand the value. Never hand pumped water. Never dug a ditch. Jeez the amount of hard dirt one can dig or water pumped with a litre of diesel is amazing.
One word; subsidies.
That isn’t all though, fossil fuel producers enjoy other financial benefits which drain on your tax dollars. Strange that you ignore and don’t get upset about that.
I have seen these claims of subsidies for fossil fuels, and for the most part to get a big number they include tax credits available to all companies, like expensing of equipment, and wars.
Please don’t insult everybody’s intelligence.
Subsidies to the FF industry are by any definition vast.
The inability of the free market God to readily distinguish between smart/useful/sensible demands and stupid/childish/self destructive demands creates a strong argument against apointing it the sole or perfect arbiter of how an energy dependent society ought to make its energy choices.
“#7 ” through the nose “..
No. Its all extraordinarily good value. Many people dont understand how cheap energy is. Usually rich people.
I cant state this strongly enough.
Diesel is gobsmackingly cheap.”
Except for the tens of thousands of trillions of dollars in external costs (adaptation to AGW for 10,000 years) which are not included.
Except for wind and solar energy which already make driving your car 1/4 the price of your beloved diesel. Which if subsidized to the extent of fossil fuels, would provide electricity for free.
Fossil fuels are not cheap – they are ridiculously expensive.
#19 BBD, this does look like a better list of subsidies than what I had reviewed before. The IMF estimate looks like junk- almost all of it is a cost of pollution and global warming and calling it a subsidy.
I can’t find a list to the IEA’s report, the link just goes to a report that mentions the total. If they are using purchasing power parity to produce large subsidies(referred to as an objection made by Middle East countries) then their estimate is wrong. The idea that every instance of local price being below world price is a subsidy is not valid, but without seeing the country breakdown it is impossible to know for sure.
OECD study was the type I had in mind, looking at producer subsidies. The report goes into detail, and acknowledges the issue of capital expensing, but I can’t see the list of individual subsidies that go into the totals.
Viewed from the balance sheet, uncosted externalities are indistinguishable from subsidies.
Re #10: (1) If I remember correctly the population peak you mentioned is not a small increase. The world population is predicted to rise to almost 10 billion by 2050 and over 11 billion by 2100. By 2050 the U.S. is predicted to grow to 390 million people..
(2) The declining birth rate in developed countries is tied to several things including an increased standard of living in general, especially increased longevity, better survival rates for children, less strenuous work (so that less human help is needed), and access to birth control. However, what is happening now and has been for several decades is no longer so favorable to a declining rate of population increase.
Note, for example, the decades long stagnation of real wages for most Americans fostered by GOP economic policies (trickle down etc.), Note the relatively high rate of American child mortality for a developed country. Note the increasingly effective war by the religious right on access to birth control (especially but not just abortion), Note that the effects of global warming will increase with time and many of those effects are deleterious — at least in the short term (i.e. decades to 1000s of years).
I’m also going to take a whack at MikeN’s comment that
In South Africa, there is a program for Eskom (our national electricity provider) to purchase electricity from privately owned suppliers generating electricity from wind and solar. Already, Eskom is paying less for electricity from the independent power producers than it is for electricity generated from its coal fired power stations.
Clean energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels, and as the technology gets better, it will only get even cheaper.
There’s an awful lot of bollocks talked about clean energy costs. While the energy / climate literate know that FF costs are hugely understated because they exclude the uncosted externalities of particulate and CO2 atmospheric pollution, there is routine misrepresentation of the true cost variable renewable generation from wind and solar.
By far the worst offender is the solar industry, which has seeded the meme that because solar modules have fallen rapidly in price, solar energy is ‘cheap’. This is entirely false at utility scale.
Large-scale SPV generation is highly intermittent and has an absolute requirement for utility-scale storage which is still borderline vapourware unless you opt for LiION which is very expensive and inappropriate because of its relatively short charging cycle lifetime.
Solar modules are only the cheapest part of the total system cost of large-scale SPV. So presenting the cost of the array as the total system cost – as is the industry norm – is dishonest.
The same holds true for wind: although turbine costs are falling, the array is only a part of the total system cost but the same misleading claim about cost is made by the industry. Like solar, wind is intermittent and requires a combination of utility-scale storage (pumped hydro is arguably the best option but it is extremely expensive at scale) and wide-area integration via (extremely expensive) new long-distance transmission capacity and grid interconnections. All these things are carefully omitted from the ‘cheap energy’ pitch.
Obviously we need to transition to low-carbon generation technology and we need to do it fast. Obviously wind and solar will be the techologies that must scale to take over from FFs. Obviously W&S do not have the potentially devastating environmental externalities of FFs.
But it is equally obvious that misleading claims about cheap renewables are going to come back to haunt the industry as soon as W&S really start to scale. So IMO, the industry would be well-advised to stop misrepresenting the true cost of its products.
Re #26: Are you saying that #25 is misinformation and South African energy costs are not less for renewable energy, or what?
Anyway, if energy costs rise to save the planet drastic climate change then so what? Did you expect energy to be cheap forever? do you think fossil fuel costs going to stay constant as supplies dwindle and it costs more to obtain it from lower and lower grade supplies (like Alberta’s oil shale)?
you praise Big Oil by faint damnation (raising obvious questions as to how much they’re paying you):
“Lied for profit”? Could you be any vaguer, BBD? If your allegiance to the planet isn’t compromised financially, then you ought to have no trouble being specific here:
Their OWN CHEMISTS were telling them that, yes, fossil fuel consumption is addictive, yet they pretended—under oath—that the scientific jury was still out on the neurological effects.
Humanity? More lies by omission, BBD.
Preventing decarbonisation was a crime against all organic life on the planet, as I’m sure you know perfectly well. Deep down.
Whatever they’re giving you, BBD, I hope it’s worth it. You’re the one who’s going to have to explain to your great-great-grandchildren why you actively downplayed the worst Holocaust in the future of Western civilization.
Those of us who have been awake to the issue of fossil fuel promoted lying know only too well its history since the early 1990s. Thus the numerous agents of this propaganda are well know and we don’t have to provide a list every time this is mentioned. Here are two linked names to kick off – Western Fuels and Pat Michaels.
Your statement is an example of unnecessary pedantry.
That the true scale of the impact of a warming world because of human activity has been thus suppressed with the anticipated tragedies now unfolding across the globe, but which started even before the latest round of extreme weather events, is a crime against humanity.
Have you totted up the numbers of displaced persons globally. You may try to point at wicked regimes, racial – religious differences with resultant armed conflict as causes of migrants and refugees but that would be to ignore the underlying ‘stressors’ due to climate change – drought and flooding with large scale crop failures. Coming to a place near you before much longer so don’t be smug.
BBD in his #14 and #19 is absolutely correct.
If this is ‘vague’ to you then do some research, I am sure you really know where to begin and are simply playing the annoying sophist card, as ever.
You’ll be glad to know that the bulk of your comment at #29 can be filed under ‘Preaching to the choir in a hyperechoic closed space.’
That said, I’m very grateful for the reminder that this is really about those human beings we’re all guilty of forgetting, even the best of us, from time to time: those displaced, bereaved and dispossessed by the horrors of climate-aggravated conflict.
Whenever the news turns to a man-made Hell like Syria, I’m ashamed of all the times I’ve cheapened words like ‘climate wars’.
There are people out there for whom that term actually means something, and surviving a couple of brusque twete-a-twetes with Rob Honeycutt doesn’t give me the right to appropriate it.
That’s why I was so disgusted by the triumphalism on display a couple of days ago at WUWT, with Mr Watts crowing, “Sorry, Alarmists: New research disputes claims that climate change helped spark Syrian civil war.”
My snarky response (as follows) may have cost me the opprobrium of the denialistic wing of the Worshipful Church of “Skepticism,” but that’s a small price to pay on a question of conscience.
September 8, 2017 at 10:27 am
At least we’ll always have Khartoum….
New York Times, June 10, 2032
‘For Darfur, justice. For Northern Africa, a chance to heal?’
THE HAGUE, Netherlands—Twenty years late, a war crimes tribunal has given Sudan’s most celebrated genocidaires their freedom again. The conviction of the ‘Darfur Four’ over a spree of atrocities between 2002 and 2003 was overturned today after courts finally accepted the science blaming regional violence on climate change.
“In rendering [the original verdict in 2012], His Honor erred by treating traditional peoples and Earth’s systems as independent,” said an appeals court judge this morning, his voice hoarse from sobbing.
“This led to a significant overestimation of the free moral agency of the appellants, who are black.”
The acquittal brings closure not only to decades of hell for the four men, but to a test case in international climate-legal theory.
The released rapists and torturers held a conference in Khartoum this evening to thank the scientists and climate ethicists who “never gave up” on them. They closed by imploring the crowd of thousands to never forget—or forgive—the real culprits, “who sit in the air-conditioned boardrooms of America’s great oil companies.”
Alcohol is dangerous according to traditional knowledge-holders, so revelers who thronged the capital’s pro-government suburbs had to make do with firing their assault rifles into the warm night air.
But justice comes too late for Muammar bin Skaf al Khartoumi, one of the original Darfur Five, who died behind bars in 2022. The tragedy was a complication of an HIV infection blamed on one of his victims, a child prostitute who gave him the disease while being raped in the bloody summer of 2003.
Col. al Khartoumi told interviewers on his deathbed that his greatest comfort was having lived long enough to see his killer pay for his crimes against Allah in 2015. (Shari’a does not permit the throwing of homosexuals from tall buildings until they’ve “attained manhood”—a threshold most scholars interpret as the age of 18.)
Sir Julian Assange, a leading advocate for the rights of the innocent, reminded the international community that today’s news was no excuse for complacency.
“Hundreds of men and women still rot in UN dungeons for ‘crimes against humanity’ committed in the heat of wars they didn’t even start, no pun intended.
“Remember: people don’t increase the frequency and severity of regional conflict; global warming increases the frequency and severity of regional conflict.”
Sir Julian is no stranger to legal trials—or at least tribulations—himself, having spent years on the run from one embassy to another. His own nightmare began on an “unseasonably balmy night” in 2010 when he put his penis in a sleeping colleague, only to be charged with an act of microaggression.
Yes. At small scale, as in SA at present, W&S are free riders on the back of existing FF-fired plant which compensates for their intermittency. W&S plant owners pay nothing for this service as it is implemented at grid-level. So their costs are artificially reduced.
What I am saying is that the W&S industries should stop peddling the meme that their products are cheap when in fact they are only partially costed. That’s coming very close to a false prospectus and there will be consequences.
It would also be nice to see the meme disappear from online discourse.
Julian Frost, if renewable energy is cheaper now or at any point in the next decade and a half or so, then global warming is not something to worry about. Developing countries are not going to invest in fossil fuels to pay more money for energy. This will be the bulk of global warming emissions in the next 50 years, with China already at 30% of the global share, and India at 5%, both increasing emissions yearly. We have already seen price cause huge changes to the US source of power production from coal to natural gas, so we can assume the developed countries will also change to renewable energy if it is cheaper. That is about 30% of global emissions for US, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, and Russia.
There will be whatever warming is ‘locked in’ plus the emissions of the next decade and a half which will be higher than now, and then the emissions will start to drop whenever renewables are cheaper, taking RCP8.5,4.5 etc off the table and more towards RCP2.6. All of this would happen with no specific action targeted towards global warming, just because it is cheaper.
Note emissions have already started to drop in some places due to a switch to natural gas from coal, but this drop is not a path towards stabilizing CO2 emissions. Depending on the price difference, there may not be a 100% drop in emissions, but there would be a path towards a substantial drop that would significantly reduce global warming not just the 30% or so reduction that natural gas can produce, but 80% or more.
I stand by my claim that renewables are not cheaper than fossil fuels. They may be at some point, but not yet.
So basically you are saying that you have been and are still happy to wait for the drop in cost of renewable energy to below that of fossil fuels so that the free market can substitute for human intelligence and planning. And this, presumably is to save you from any increase in your energy bills even though they will rise anyway as fossil fuels become harder and more expensive to locate and develop and despite the fact that the longer action is postponed, the more difficult life on the planet will find it to adjust without trauma. In a previous post, Greg pointed out that there is already enough warming to come because of past greenhouse gas emissions to cause a significant rise in sea level over what would have happened otherwise. What do you think will happen when the people in the present coastal cities on low-lying coasts have to move elsewhere. More good farmland covered by city and suburban sprawl, more people forced to move from where migrations are headed because of rising prices for land and the resulting increases in other prices and property taxes as well as the overcrowding and stretching of services as the inland cities try to cope. Yeah, it’ll be great — for people who own property they don’t need to live on..
Tyvor, what I am saying is that I don’t believe renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels, or will be anytime soon.
Frequently this statement gets said to make it look like there is no cost to dealing with global warming; it’s just a free ride with less pollution too! Well if you really believe this, then stop worrying about global warming, the problem is largely solved.