How to Really Fight Climate Change
Starts with uncovering the root causes of the problem
In order to prevent climate change effects, and safeguard the future of human societies, we must investigate what’s triggering it in the first place. That’s exactly what a group of scientists has been doing while tracing worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
By analyzing data from 1988 to 2015, researchers from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) found out the fossil fuel industry is the largest source of global GHG emissions that are causing climate change. In fact, their ‘Carbon Majors’ report shows that just 100 fossil fuel producers — including oil, gas, and coal companies — are responsible for 71% of all GHG emissions released to the atmosphere in the last 30 years.
“The fossil fuel industry and its products accounted for 91% of global industrial GHGs in 2015, and about 70% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions [since 1988]. If the trend in fossil fuel extraction continues over the next 28 years as it has over the previous 28, then global average temperatures would be on course to rise around 4ºC above preindustrial levels by the end of the century. This would entail substantial species extinction, large risks of regional and global food scarcity, and could cross multiple tipping points in the Earth’s climate system, leading to even more severe consequences.” — Carbon Majors Report
Even though fossil fuel companies knew their products were causing climate impacts since decades ago, energy-related carbon emissions reached a record high in 2018, as they continued to expand and invest heavily in these industrial activities.
“The entities/corporations that get coal, oil and gas out of the ground, and burn it to power our present economies are responsible for the lions’ share of emissions…These companies have benefited financially with knowledge of the harms associated with their products.” — Holding big polluters accountable for climate change, 350.org campaign
A recent investigation shows that big oil and gas companies have invested over US$1 billion after the Paris Agreement — the global accord to curb GHG emissions and climate change — on misleading ad campaigns (including climate denial) and in lobbying against climate policies. The InfluenceMap Report concluded that current climate policy inaction is due to “unprecedented lobbying by industry with ties to the fossil fuel economy”, and therefore, “without addressing such persistent negative lobbying, global progress on climate change remains unlikely.”
Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, also argues “the really inconvenient truth [about climate change] is that it’s not about carbon — it’s about capitalism.” Yet still, “the convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed [fossil-based] economic system and build something radically better.”
The latest research findings strongly indicate that to really fight climate change and to progress towards a sustainable and clean energy future, we must break free from fossil fuels. In practice, it means to stop financing this industry.
Hopefully, a fossil fuel divestment movement has been growing worldwide since 2012, according to the 350.org campaigns group. Over 1000 institutions with nearly US$8 trillion in total funds have already committed to divest from fossil fuels and to direct investments into renewable energy. Several major cities, banks and insurance companies, besides faith groups, cultural, health, and educational institutions have announced their plans of divesting, ‘desponsoring’ or detaching from fossil fuels.
New York City, for instance, committed to divest its US$200 billion public pension funds within the next five years. And just sued five of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies over their contribution to climate change.
The most promising way to avert our climate crisis is no longer a mystery: fossil fuels must be kept in the ground. Either we divest our economies from the threatening fossil dependence, or we will probably share the fate of dinosaurs.