Corporations Caused the Climate Crisis, They Can End It

Featured Image: Photo by Chris Yakimov on flickr from a September 27, 2019 march in Vancouver, Canada.


4 for Now

We know the climate crisis is real, at this point. Most of us know it’s something to worry about. But the corporations that rule us continue to refuse to divest from the systems and resources that are responsible, even to save their own lives. They make empty promises and even have us thinking that it’s our fault.

Project Drawdown highlights how various sectors contribute, measured in gigatons of CO2 equivalent (from 2018 IPCC data), and Our World in Data breaks down how each sector creates emissions (based on 2016 data).

Sectors where Corporations Contribute the Most to the Climate Crisis

Electricity generates 25% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Buildings and industry are the two biggest end-users of electricity, thanks to richer countries. (Much of the world still lacks access to electricity.) Major uses include:

  • Lights and electronics in residential and commercial buildings
  • Production and processing of goods
  • Powering technology and transportation

Food, Agriculture, and Land Use generate 24% of emissions. While plenty of food manufacturers are pretty despicable, going by emissions alone, this is mostly:

  • Livestock and manure
  • Fertilized soils
  • Burning leftover crops after harvest

Industry (Manufacturing), where the dominant mode of operation is take-make-use-trash, is directly responsible for 21% of all heat-trapping emissions created on-site. It also drives almost 50% of off-site electricity generation emissions. There are emissions in all manufacturing processes, but the biggest offenders are:

  • Iron and steel
  • Chemicals and petrochemicals
  • Cement

Transportation is the source of 14% of emissions. It additionally generates particulate matter that harms our health and causes oil spills that harm the land, water, and all life therein.

  • Road transport accounts for the vast majority of transportation emissions, followed distantly by
  • Aviation
  • Shipping

And let us not forget the financiers of destruction and the most devastating entity known to humankind. (The Dishonorable Mentions, if you will.)

How Corporations Can Save Us from the Climate Crisis

Individual actions are great (depending on the action) and collectively can slow down the changes to the climate, but we won’t avoid complete catastrophe unless the major corporations doing the vast majority of the damage are stopped.

Some of the damage is irreversible in our lifetime. We need immediate full-scale, global changes to be able to meet the deadlines scientists are giving us. That means entire industries need to shift their priority from profits to sustainability (and to include less wealthy nations in their efforts).

Project Drawdown has much more detailed information on solutions, but the top areas of focus are:

  • Enhancing the efficiency of all processes and systems.
  • Shifting production away from fossil fuels ASAP.
  • Shifting to alternative resources, materials, processes, and systems.
  • Using waste (or not producing waste at all).
  • Addressing refrigerants.
  • Protecting and restoring ecosystems.

There’s no lack of plans for how to achieve our climate goals, and Solutions Journalism shares stories about solutions already in place. We just need the corporations who caused the climate crisis to accept their roles and make it right.


4 for Later

  1. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) has opportunities to learn, share, and act on their website.
  2. Greenpeace has a myriad of petitions and letters directed toward folks and organizations who have the power to make meaningful change. You can filter based on topic to easily find what you’re most passionate about helping. (If you’re in the US and want to contact your reps on your own, this is a handy site to find your local, county, state, and federal representatives.)
  3. Join or support Scientist Rebellion. (They’re the ones who organized the protests where at least 100 scientists were arrested of about 1,000 who protested in 25 countries.) Check out their Action Lab for some great resources.
  4. Here are 10 more things you can do about climate change. (Some of the details are Canada-specific, but the actions can be applied around the world.)