The new science fossil fuel companies fear
Zack Colman published an article in Politico called “The new science fossil fuel companies fear,” in which he describes how Richard Heede spent a decade attempting to find out one thing: “how many greenhouse gases the world’s fossil fuel companies, cement-makers and other industrial giants had pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.” The Norwegian climate analyst began his career, like many others in his field, researching what the consumer can do to reduce total carbon emissions. However, his research hit a dead end due to a fundamental principle in the economy. Yes, consumers consume to pollute; but, they can only consume what is available to them in the market. It is the companies that created markets for fossil fuels and supported their infrastructure that allow the consumers to consume it.
In effect, Heede said, “with federal policy being unsupportive and still emphasizing continued energy development, I just thought it would be a new lever to look at the companies that have their hand on the tiller. And pressure can be exerted in a number of ways.” In 2013, he found his answer: 90 companies had been responsible for two thirds of the world’s global emissions. Heede’s answer is contributing to a paradigm shift in the assessment of blame for the changing climate. Since the issue became publicized, the government and industry leaders have manipulated the public to blame themselves for consuming in the market they created. However, new research and influential researches such as Heede are allowing the public to reevaluate who is truly responsible for the global climate crisis.
Momentum is already building as the first law suit was given in New York to a fossil fuel company for underselling their pollutants. The New York attorney general “alleges that Exxon used a different internal estimate for the cost that carbon-reduction policies would have on its business than it told investors.” Lawsuits like these are the beginning of a shift in the way we asses blame for climate change. These companies are responsible for more than two thirds of all-time global pollutants and governments are responsible for their negligence in the process.