Burning Up (the Earth, that is)

Camilla Breen, Pulse co-editor

It’s no secret that the United States is one of the top contributors to climate change: we have one of the world’s highest water footprints, and we fall just behind China for having the most carbon emissions. This information has been plastered all over America in an effort to conserve drinkable water, reduce carbon emissions, and stop the rapid increase of global warming. We’ve all been told to take shorter showers and turn the lights off when they’re not in use, but in actuality, the finite amount of people who follow by those rules are not the ones that need to be blamed for the majority of global emissions; the truth is that big commercial companies are the real climate killers.

There are only 100 companies in the world that are accountable for more than 70 percent of all global emissions, according to the Carbon Majors Report from 2017; The Carbon Majors Report is an extension of the Climate Accountability Institute, an institution that aims to showcase accountability of climate change. Investor-owned companies including Exxon, Shell and BP are contributing the most the most to carbon emissions; since these oil and gas companies are adding such significant amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere, it only makes sense that the companies’ investors and owners take responsibility to prevent more from entering the atmosphere. Even if these companies simply committed to renewable energy plans, or reusable oil plans, it would make a large difference in the amount of carbon emissions. The first step is for them to take specific action – not just say they will and never follow through.

We as a nation used approximately 10.14 million barrels per day of petroleum in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Carbon Majors Report also reports that the fossil fuel industry has “doubled its contribution to global warming by emitting as much greenhouse gas in 28 years as in the 237 years between 1988 and the birth of the industrial revolution.” Essentially, these industries are emitting more greenhouse gasses in shorter and shorter amounts of time. The consumer demand for oil will not cease any time soon, so these companies need to take responsibility and take action for their large contributions of CO2 to the air.

For example, the BP website states that they “ have set clear targets for emissions in our operations. . .even as our business grows to meet growing demand, our net carbon emissions will not.” While this is admirable, actions speak louder than words. These empty promises will not change a thing. Until results can be realized, corporations like BP must be held accountable for their emissions.

Yes, of course every human impacts climate change with our increasingly inflated carbon footprints. However, casting the blame on everyday citizens is setting us back. There are many things we can do to help, such as take shorter showers or eat less meat, but when the meat processing industry & agriculture industry in our own backyards are releasing methane into the air, it surpasses what one individual contributes.

“It’s better to prevent the problem than try to clean it up,” AP Environmental Science teacher Eric Nuss said. But what can we do if we surpass the point of prevention? How do we come back from the edge?

Many research models show that we are not past the point of prevention yet, but may approach it within the next 12 years if we do not change things, according to Nuss.

“It’s important to remember that there are already many consequences to our actions,” Nuss said. “Simply put, we have to minimize our inputs of greenhouse gasses by limiting fossil fuel use, prevent deforestation, and change our eating habits. Limiting dairy and meat is the easiest thing people can do.”

The bottom line is this: it does start with us, the everyday people who are committed to making a change, but will only go as far as big oil companies will let it. Many oil companies are making efforts to become more environmentally friendly, but they still have quite a way to go.