A recent report claims the bulk of CO2 emissions since 1988 came from 25 companies, making them chiefly responsible for rapidly accelerating climate change.

The CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, recently published the “Carbon Majors Database” as a followup to an earlier analysis published in 2013 seeking to find the sources of the roughly 1.1 trillion tons of carbon emissions put into the atmosphere since 1988, when the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded to study human impact on the climate.

According to the report, just 25 fossil fuel companies are responsible for more than half of all CO2 emissions between 1988 and 2016. And 71 percent of industrial CO2 emissions since 1988 can be attributed to the world’s top 100 fossil fuel producers. The CDP’s study also claims that CO2 emissions by those primary offenders have been rapidly rising in the 28-year period researchers studied.

“Since [1988], the fossil fuel industry has doubled its contribution to global warming by emitting as much greenhouse gas in 28 years as in the 237 years between 1988 and the birth of the industrial revolution,” the report’s summary reads.

According to a CDP chart measuring emissions from production of different fossil fuels, from sands/bitumen to crude/condensate, natural gas liquids (NGL), and gas, 10 of the top 25 emitters of CO2 since 1988 are American fossil fuel companies. Some of the more notable American names on the list are ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Marathon, and Hess. Other major companies on the list from around the world include Netherlands-based Shell, UK-based BP, France-based Total, and Russian oil and gas conglomerates Rosneft and Gazprom.

However, when analyzing the bulk of CO2 emissions put into the atmosphere over the last 15 years, researchers found that increased Chinese coal production, along with extraction of tar sands oil by Canadian oil titans like Suncor and American companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil, made up the bulk of global emissions.

Chart of world’s largest CO2 emitters, by CDP

According to CDP Technical Director Pedro Faria, the report was assembled as a way of analyzing the role that investor and state-owned companies — rather than individual nations — played in climate change.

“Fossil fuel companies are also going to have to demonstrate leadership as part of this transition. They owe it to the millions of clients they serve that are already feeling the effects of climate change, and to the many millions more that require energy for the comfort of their daily lives but are looking for alternatives to their products,” Faria wrote.

“[Fossil fuel producers are] a big part of the problem and a big part of the solution,” he added.

Read CDP’s full report here.


Scott Alden covers national politics, education, and environmental issues for Grit Post. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in Inkster, Michigan.

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