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Climate Change: The Guilty and the Guiltier

The world’s an odd place, don’t you think? There was an endless void, completely lifeless and unfathomably black, and then, BOOM! Suddenly, there it was. Now, I must stress it took rather a while to become the place we recognise. First there were all those rocky years, then the hazy age of the dinosaurs, that dark part where the earth got struck by an asteroid, and let’s not forget the bit at the end where people wore funny costumes. This big ball of rock really is incredible, and for all those years its climate has plunged and thawed, roared and relaxed as the natural forces dictated. But humanity decided to set a new trend, and we all know where it’s headed.

What we’re told

For most, the causes of climate change seem clearer than much of the air in our cities. Excess Carbon Dioxide leaking into the atmosphere is, of course, the number one culprit. However, it's the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ which seems to have slipped many of us by.

While each and every one of us has an undeniable role to play in reducing (and eventually stabilising) climate change, it may interest you to know that we’ve been deceived. You’ve heard of a carbon footprint? Well, BP will be glad about that.

It was 2004 when the major petroleum corporation invented the term as part of its PR offensive against a growing awareness of its contribution to climate change. By accessing their “Carbon Footprint Calculator”, customers could see in numerical form the horrendous amounts of carbon they were releasing into the environment on a daily basis. Suddenly, the focus was on us, we were the guilty ones, and we all needed to know it. In his article for Mashable, Mark Kaufman writes that the term is indeed “intended to manipulate your thinking about one of the greatest environmental threats of our time”. He also quotes Susan Joy Hassol, a climate change communicator and senior science writer who simply calls it “effective propaganda”.

What are they up to?

It’s only when you look a little deeper into BP’s actions that you can truly appreciate how ingenious their deception is. The Guardian reports that between 1988 and 2015, the company was individually responsible for 1.53% of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions. When placed beside the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, who weigh in at 4.5%, or the Chinese coal industry’s staggering 14.32%, innocent little BP seem like rookies in this game. But regardless of who does more damage, these unimaginably vast corporations are almost single handedly destroying the climate and our chances of stabilising it.

And just when you think it couldn’t possibly get much worse, well, it can. Many wealthy governments across the planet are still subsidising fossil fuels in developing countries. This is despite the 2015 Paris agreement, in which many committed to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

So the moral of the story is clear. There are higher powers at work here.

It’s very much in their interest that we don’t do anything about their role in our ever warming climate. But there is hope, and like a ray of sunshine through a methane cloud, it endures.

Solutions galore

Fiona Harvey, Damian Carrinton, Jonathan Watts, and Patrick Greenfield wrote up a rather useful list of things we can do to dramatically cut our reliance upon fossil fuels and, thus, our contribution to these senselessly destructive corporations.

Placing Climate on the ballot paper is one of their suggestions, a progressive move that would ultimately allow members of the public to demonstrate their concerns for environmental issues by electing politicians who have clearly prioritised them. They note that “Politicians need to know the public is behind them if they are to take on the petrochemical industry”, which is something that ultimately begins with us.

Another way to place pressure on corporations would be through taxation. It’s a subject that often frightens readers away, but not you of course. A tax “which forces companies to factor the damage caused by climate change into their business decisions” should “encourage them to cut waste, cut emissions and use clean technology”.

And it even trickles down to us as individuals. By publicly shaming these companies through “social and political pressure” we can “force companies to own up to their activities”, holding privately owned corporations accountable for their actions. And for national oil companies? Simply reduce demand. Invest in renewable energy resources, campaign for their increased use, buy an electric car if you can’t think of anything else.

Every tiny action plays its part, and we need tiny actions, lots of them. This rock of ours is worth looking after, and for all that it’s endured to get us here, it’s fair to say we owe it one.


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