Just 90 companies are to blame for most climate change

Research by geographer Richard Heede shows that nearly two-thirds of anthropogenic carbon emissions originated in just 90 companies and government-run industries. Among them, the top eight companies — ranked according to annual and cumulative emissions below — account for 20 percent of world carbon emissions from fossil fuels and cement production since the Industrial Revolution.

The results showed that nearly two-thirds of the major industrial greenhouse gas emissions (from fossil fuel use, methane leaks, and cement manufacture) originated in just 90 companies around the world, which either emitted the carbon themselves or supplied carbon ultimately released by consumers and industry. As Heede told The Guardian newspaper, you could take all the decision-makers and CEOs of these companies and fit them on a couple Greyhound buses.

The study provoked controversy when it was published in 2013, with some complaining that it unfairly held the fossil fuel industry responsible for the lifestyle choices made by billions of consumers. “It’s a cop-out to blame the producers of products that we have demanded, and benefited from, for more than a century,” wrote Severin Borenstein, a business and public policy expert at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, in a blog post.

Royal Dutch Shell is in the top 10 (#6) with the calculated cumulative impact up to the year 2013.

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