Get the wanted posters ready! The parties responsible for a majority of pollution-causing climate change have been narrowed down to a list of less than 100! After the historic news this fall from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  that officially puts the probability of manmade global warming at 95 percent, a new report may narrow down who’s really responsible. This report in Journal of Climatic Change, written by climate researches Richard Heede, proves that just 90 companies worldwide are responsible for three quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution!. Almost 30 percent of the emissions were produced by the top 20 companies alone.

The study says that the top 90 pollution emitting companies can be connected to a cumulative of 63 percent of total carbon dioxide and methane emissions from 1751 to 2010. That’s approximately 914 gigatonne of carbon dioxide. The list of companies includea 50 investor-owned firms, 31 state-owned companies and nine government-run industries. All but seven of these companies are involved with the fossil fuel energy industry.


To further break down which type of companies produced what, Heede calculated that the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in history were government-run oil and coal companies from the former Soviet Union, who contributed 8.9 percent to total emissions over time. China’s state-run companies were right behind the Soviet Union producing 8.6 percent. Well known companies like Cheveron Texaco produced 3.5 percent emissions, Exxon produced 3.2 percent of emissions and BP released 2.5 percent of total emissions.

This study is significant and ground breaking because it is the first of its kind to scientifically narrow down individuals causing climate change. For many years, the focus of who was responsible for climate change has been left to generalizations. The blame has most often been explained by regional semantics of developed nations versus undeveloped nations. Now, with a narrower scope of those who is truly responsible, we have a new avenue to focus on reducing carbon emissions in the future.

Former Vice President, Al Gore told the Guardian, “Those who are historically responsible for polluting our atmosphere have a clear obligation to be part of the solution.”

The environmental impacts from these companies is not restricted to the past as their carbon emissions and businesses will mark the future. Since the majority are energy companies, they still have vast supplies of fossil fuels that have yet to be burned or extracted and will only add to their percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. This means theses companies have the potential to do more damage even beyond what they have already done.

Pointing fingers aside, we need to make connections using this new data, especially in the U.S. where public opinion is easily swayed not always by facts but by media and those who fund it. In this case, some of the biggest contributors to anti-climate change rhetoric are the very same companies on Heede’s list. Let’s just say this is not a coincidence. Ultimately Heede’s list is only useful if we react to it by demanding corporate responsibility and looking for solutions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For a graphic representation depicting the companies most responsible for climate change, click here.

Image Source: Curran Kelleher / Flickr