Back in October of 2016, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists did an interview with researcher Richard Heede, who had just completed a dozen years’ work to pin down the exact carbon contributions of all the oil, coal, and gas producers (and cement makers) since the industrial revolution kicked into high gear. At that time, Heede’s findings seemed stunning enough, as can be seen from the title of our 2016 interview: “Just 90 companies are accountable for more than 60 percent of greenhouse gases.”
Now, however, things have kicked up another notch. In the time since our original Bulletin story, Heede has sharpened his focus still further, and narrowed his timeline to just the period since 1965—the point when the climate effects of fossil fuels became known to industry leaders. His stunning new findings were the focus of an entire package of a half-dozen stories on the front page of today’s Guardian in a new section called “The Polluters;” the take-away is that a mere 20 fossil fuel companies are directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.
Asked for comment on these findings, climate scientist Michael Mann said in one of the stories in the Guardian’s polluters package: “The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price—in the form of a degraded planet—so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits.”
For his part, Heede—now with the Climate Accountability Institute’s Carbon Majors—writes in a separate Opinion piece for the newspaper: “Fossil fuel companies must not be allowed to sit on the sidelines, professing support for climate action while they continue to contribute to worsening climate chaos. I challenge oil executives to manage their companies in line with the best science on climate change.”
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