Thursday, November 21, 2013

Give me a bus and I will change the world

The Guardian reports about an new study, apparently accepted for publication in Climatic Change (it is not yet up on their Online first page). The new report says:
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.

The companies range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon and BP – to state-owned and government-run firms.

The analysis, which was welcomed by the former vice-president Al Gore as a "crucial step forward" found that the vast majority of the firms were in the business of producing oil, gas or coal,...
"There are thousands of oil, gas and coal producers in the world," climate researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado said. "But the decision makers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two."
Reducing the wicked problem of climate change to this level of moralizing and demonizing is remarkable. So we could get rid of the problem if drove the bus over a cliff? If true, the only branch of science left with some work would be moral philosophy.

The article also quotes Michael Mann saying:
Michael Mann, the climate scientist, said he hoped the list would bring greater scrutiny to oil and coal companies' deployment of their remaining reserves. "What I think could be a game changer here is the potential for clearly fingerprinting the sources of those future emissions," he said. "It increases the accountability for fossil fuel burning. You can't burn fossil fuels without the rest of the world knowing about it."
Especially the last sentence is wonderful.

I guess to make the argument complete, the fossil fuel-dependence / junkie analogy needs to be made. Will people be told to brace themselves for cold turkey?

h/t Mark Caine


Karl Kuhn said...

It is this with-hunt atmosphere that has emerged which is the problem in the debate. It has established itself right at the centre of what is called climate science. This is the real fodder for sceptics. This is what worries me most about all this. Much more than the billions that may be wasted on premature renewables and imagined climate impacts in developing countries.

Mao had given the advice for the next step: punishing one teaches a lesson to a thousand. Sorry for the sarcasm.

Pekka Pirilä said...

The paper by Richard Heede is now openly available at

Pekka Pirilä said...

A few excerpts from the paper tell on its nature.

First the title

Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010

and the end of the introduction

The purpose of this analysis is to understand those historic emissions as a factual matter, to invite consideration of their possible relevance to public policy, and to lay the possible groundwork for apportioning responsibility for climate change to the entities that provided the hydrocarbon products to the global economy.

try to tell about a neutral attitude.

But then the conclusions indicate something different to me (some excerpts from there):

This analysis offers a somewhat different perspective on the causes of and responsibility for dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system. Without minimizing the responsibility of Annex I nations, nor of China and India, often discussed, this analysis highlights the role of some
non-Annex I nations, such Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, Iran, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Libya, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, and other countries that have not been at the center of discussions regarding responsibility for controlling emissions.


Shifting the perspective
from nation-states to corporate entities — both investor-owned and state-owned companies — opens new opportunities for those entities to become part of the solution rather than passive (and profitable) bystanders to continued climate disruption. Future work (Heede and Oreskes, in prep.) will examine the question of ethical, political, and legal arguments to enlist or require these carbon majors in limiting further dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Social pressures may be brought to bear on investor-owned entities, which could work as an additional lever to push action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

I could see real value in listing the sources of fossil fuels in discussing technical alternatives for the present emission trading approach, but that does not seem to be the motivation of this work.

@ReinerGrundmann said...


thanks for the link.

"I could see real value in listing the sources of fossil fuels in discussing technical alternatives for the present emission trading approach, but that does not seem to be the motivation of this work."

That's what I thought.

For such a pragmatic approach to the problem, see here.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Another fine comment (LOL):,34658/?ref=auto

Hans von Storch said...

Wonderful, Reiner.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hans von Storch said...

I have deleted the last comment, because it served only its anonymous authors to let off some steam. A pretty stupid comment, to be sure.