Logo
Cover

The largest CO2 polluters are the oil companies

Last year, the Climate Accountabiliy Institute compiled a list of companies that contributed most to climate change from the 1960s to 2017. Not surprisingly, the companies that promote and process fossil fuels are at the top, regardless of how they finance themselves. At the top are two state and two private companies.

The top 20” climate sinners “are Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Gazprom and ExxonMobil, The Guardian lists. These four companies alone have caused ten percent of the global CO2 emissions that have been generated since 1965. Together, the “Top 20” have blown more than a third (35 percent) of all energy-related CO2 equivalents into the air, a total of 480 billion tons of CO2eq.

Guardian Graphic

The 20 largest state (black) and private (yellow) “climate sinners” blew up some 480 billion tons of CO2 equivalents between 1965 and 2017. The biggest polluter is the state-owned company Saudi Aramco. (Figures in billions of tons of CO2eq, data: Heede, graphic: The Guardian).

Geographer Richard Heede, who compiled the Ranking, used the annual production of oil, natural gas and Coal reported by the companies. He calculated how much carbon and methane were released into the atmosphere throughout the supply chain.

Heede, who was already involved in several similar works, chose 1965 as his starting point. At this time, the expected effects of climate change were demonstrably known to both “Big Oil” and the US government. In November 1965, for example, then-US President Lyndon Johnson published a report outlining the likely effects of continued fossil fuel production on global temperatures.

“Leading companies and interest groups have known about this since the late 1950s,” says Heede. They would have preferred to ignore the consequences. A study published in 2019 showed that the five largest listed oil and gas companies spent $ 200 million a year on curbing, blocking and combating climate change.

Climate Lobbying

The entire world population pays the price

Michael E. Mann, one of the world’s best-known climate scientists, said: “the great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people have to pay the price in the form of a degraded planet so that a few dozen polluters can continue to make record profits.”

For Mann, this is a “great moral failure of the political system.” Mann is one of the three originators of the well-known “hockey stick curve”. In the past, he has repeatedly sued companies that have discredited his research. It is high time to call the polluters to account, Heede also stresses in view of the upcoming next round of the climate conference.

Consumers are (themselves) to blame

The” Guardian " confronted the top 20 with Heede’s list, eight corporations responded. Some believe that it is not they, But consumers, who pollute the air where the fossil fuels are burned. They are therefore not directly responsible. Several companies denied that they were already aware of the beginning of the climate crisis in the 1950s, or that the entire industry had worked to delay climate protection measures.

Companies recognize climate science

To claim that the climate crisis does not exist, after all, is off the table for “Big Oil”. The groups explicitly stated that they accept climate science and support the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement. Everyone pointed out that they are making efforts to promote renewable energies.