100 companies and 71% of global emissions

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

This is an extract from a Teach the Future [TtF] blog by Henry Webb, a 19 year old undergraduate:

"Another major problem with the current system is the contradicting messages taught to students.  While climate crisis education is insufficient, climate change as a problem is at least discussed in both scientific and social terms throughout primary and secondary schools.  However, we are never told to question the very human activities that are responsible for this.  Recycling and electric cars unfortunately don’t count as climate education anymore.  Whatever your political position is, it’s surely reasonable that every student should be taught about the 100 companies that are responsible for over 70% of global emissions, what they knew, and how they deliberately misled us."

It was the last sentence that caught my eye.  This 70% (actually 71%) from 100 companies claim originates from Channel 4’s The Last Leg in 2018.  full fact.org says that this figure comes from a report by charity CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project).  A press release said: "100 active fossil fuel producers including ExxonMobil, Shell, BHP Billiton and Gazprom are linked to 71% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.”

Digging (terrible pun, sorry) more deeply (though "mining the data" would be much worse) shows that: "... of the total estimated cumulative greenhouse gas emissions released by human activity (excluding carbon dioxide from land use, land use change and forestry, and agricultural methane) between 1988 and 2015, 71% of those emissions originated from 100 fossil fuel producers. This includes the emissions from producing fossil fuels (like oil, coal and gas), and the subsequent use of the fossil fuels they sell to other companies. (quoted by full fact.org)

So there we have it.  There's no mystery or conspiracy or silence.  It's just that carbon emissions are produced by burning carbon-based fuels produced by companies that mine fossil fuels and sell them to other companies.  Who'd have thought it?   This is a "cows milk is produced from cows, shock" story.   My wonder is that it's only 71%.

My more serious point here is to agree with Henry when he says that too many teachers are not yet able to help students to learn about climate and ecological issues.  Just so.  Mind you, it would help were Teach the Future much clearer on what it is that they want young people in schools to know, understand, and be able to do.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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