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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

Companies cause most climate change

MON. | 12-21-20 | OPINION

     “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” “A good planet is hard to find.” I’m sure we have all seen those phrases plastered on posters across the world as environmentalism becomes more widespread. As global warming and climate change continue to become more and more of a looming threat over society, awareness of our impact on the planet has found increasing prominence in societal and political scenes. We’re frequently reminded of what we can do to save our planet as individuals, including growing a garden, using reusable water bottles and using public transportation. However, there is a big question which I feel is not asked enough: is combating global warming actually an individual responsibility, or is that simply a method of shifting the blame from the real parties at fault?

     The answer is surprisingly quite clear.


Graphic by Lexi Karaivanova

According to the 2017 CDP Carbon Majors Report, 100 companies, mostly fossil fuel producers, have been responsible for the release of over 70% of the world’s carbon emissions since the 1980s. That’s a cold, hard fact that is often kept from public view, and it's easy to understand why. Major fossil fuel corporations have one primary motivation: monetary gain. Environmental restrictions are practically the bane of their existence, as they limit these corporations’ output. By helping to convince the public that saving the planet is an individual responsibility, these companies can carry on with business as usual, regardless of the unprecedented environmental damage it will inevitably cause.

     Why is this even allowed? In this day and age, industrial contributions to pollution are fairly well-known (though not necessarily to the extent shown above). Despite this knowledge, regulations are slow to be enacted and many are altogether shot down. So why do we continue to allow this rampant environmental destruction? The truth is, American and international society alike are both heavily built upon many of these destructive industries. As such, curtailing and restricting them for the sake of our future would potentially have a marked effect on global society, including possible job loss and economic instability. This, of course, would stabilize over time as new jobs became available in the world of clean energy, but the short-term effects would be huge if this transition to clean energy is not carried out properly. Making this transition easily, however, requires time, something which we may not have the luxury of. Recent reports estimate that we have sometime between a year and a decade before climate change is largely irreversible. So would the restriction of fossil fuels be worth it in the long run? Almost certainly. Sacrificing 10 years of economic stability for the future of the entire planet is a fairly clear bargain. Unfortunately, as is common with economics, many business leaders are heavily focused on short-term plans and tend to disregard the long-term necessity of reducing pollution.

     As is common with many societal issues, the key to solving this issue of major companies’ excessive carbon emissions is dependent on one main factor: public awareness. While still beneficial for the environment, individual reduction of carbon emissions can only go so far. To truly solve this crisis, we must confront the main source in the form of these industrial and fossil fuel corporations and companies. This modern campaign of individual responsibility for the environment has shifted the public eye away from the real environmental assailants. As a result, they often go unchecked for their harmful actions.

     In the end, we must face facts. Materials such as fossil fuels exist in a finite amount, but so does the planet we live on. If we can’t protect it on our own, we’ll have to find a way to do it together. The first step towards this lofty, but attainable goal is simply to make the public aware of the morally gray acts committed by many of these ultra-polluting companies. Only then will we start making progress towards what will hopefully be the salvation of Earth from ourselves.

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