By Karen Savage
The world’s major carbon emitters have done little to reduce their impact on global warming, with newly updated research showing that 20 companies are still responsible for a staggering 35 percent of all carbon emissions worldwide since 1965.
The update builds upon previous research by Richard Heede, director of the Climate Accountability Institute, who released a report last year that covered the period from 1965—the point at which researchers say companies and governments were fully aware of the catastrophic effect carbon emissions have on the global climate—through 2017.
The update extends that report through 2018, the latest year for which data is available, which shows negligible emission reductions by the top 20 companies.
“On the theory that fossil fuel producers bear substantial responsibility for the adverse impacts of their products, we quantify how much each company’s carbon fuels contribute to rising CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentration,” Heede said in a statement.
Several companies facing climate liability suits in the U.S.—including Chevron, Exxon, BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips and Total—remain among the most prolific carbon emitters, according to the report.
The data includes operational emissions, which are typically created by companies during production, as well as emissions created by the use of their products, which are generally not reported by companies.
“Although global consumers from individuals to corporations are the ultimate emitters of carbon dioxide, we focus on the fossil fuel companies that, in our view, have produced and marketed the carbon fuels to billions of consumers with the knowledge that their use as intended will worsen the climate crisis,” Heede said, adding that companies that value their social license to operate must respect climate science, manage climate risk and reduce their emissions.
Heede said fossil fuel companies that hope to survive must also transition to renewables, carbon sequestration, and low-carbon fuels.
“Companies leading this transition will prosper,” Heede said. “Laggards will perish.”