A survey released last week indicates many major institutional investors, such as retirement funds and insurance companies, are putting their investments at risk by neglecting to address the negative financial impacts posed by climate change.
It’s no wonder that some of these investments are dicey when you consider the findings of another paper released last month, which indicated 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of manmade carbon emissions. That’s not just a huge concentration of carbon emissions — it’s a concentrated dose of financial risk.
Published in the journal of Climatic Change, the report, “Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010,” uses public records and data from the U.S. Department of Energy to calculate emissions based on the companies’ entire supply chains.
All but seven of the 90 companies identified are part of the fossil fuel industry.
Nearly 30 percent of emissions were produced by just the top 20 companies. Together, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Peabody Energy, all investor-owned companies, are responsible for more than 13 percent of manmade carbon emissions.
These companies also have a disproportionate amount of political influence in North America. In the United States alone, ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP have contributed more than $12 million to lawmakers since 1999.
Half of the emissions traced by the report were produced in the last 25 years, when awareness of global warming was increasing. Concerted efforts to deny climate science and halt climate policy began in the early 1990s. As an updated Greenpeace report released in September 2013 shows, the climate denial machine has its roots in Exxon’s funding of front groups.
These companies have also received billions of dollars to pollute. The International Monetary Fund estimates the fossil fuel industry receives about $1.9 trillion dollars in global subsidies.
As reported by DeSmog, an Oil Change International briefing paper released during COP19 in Warsaw revealed that, “subsidies lavished on the on the fossil fuel industry by wealthy industrialized nations add up to more than five times the amount of climate finance aid the same countries have so far pledged to deliver to poorer nations to reduce their global warming emissions and adapt to manmade climate change.”
“What I think could be a game changer here is the potential for clearly fingerprinting the sources of those future emissions,” climate scientist Michael Mann told The Guardian. “It increases the accountability for fossil fuel burning. You can’t burn fossil fuels without the rest of the world knowing about it.”
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