Yes, 100 Companies are “Responsible” for 71% of Global Warming Emissions: So What?

Whether 100 or 100,000, it’s consuming the fossil fuels extracted by these companies that ultimately drives climate change

The Takeaways

A Zombie Statistic

Consumption-Based Carbon Accounting and Households

Figure 1. Allocation of about 6.8 billion metric tons of CO₂e in the US under different carbon accounting. Emissions by fuel indicate the CO₂ produced via direct contribution of oil, natural gas, and coal, as well as lumped other CO₂ and non-CO₂ greenhouse gas emissions (mainly methane from agriculture and natural gas systems). Emissions by sector illustrates how fossil fuels generate electricity, which in turn contributes to all other sectors, while fossil fuels are also used directly in these sectors. Finally each economic sector contributes to various categories of household consumption. Arrow width approximates the general magnitude of each flow. Numbers for fuels and sectors are based on the US EPA Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2018; consumption numbers are based on results presented in A Fair Share: Doing the Math on Individual Consumption and Global Warming [2], references therein, and references [3–8]. Figure by the author.
Figure 2. Approximate yearly CO₂e emissions per individual attributable to consumption, divided into different consumption categories. Residential shelter emissions are divided into either the footprint from electricity and fuel use, or by energy end-uses (pop-out); similarly, food/agriculture emissions can be tabulated on the basis of emissions mechanism or food product (note that sums vary slightly with different accounting methods). Figure by the author, based on data presented in [2].
Figure 3. Potential for various collections of simple consumer shifts from the average US baseline to meaningfully mitigate per capita carbon emissions, lumped as either “minimal,” “moderate,” or “ambitious” changes. The minimal shift, for example, which could spare 25% of emissions, amounts to: (1) Reduce miles driven by 20% and omit one-third of flights; (2) change the thermostat by 2°F and set it back by 3–5 °F when absent or at night in winter, change lighting to all LED, decrease hot water, general electric, and phantom electric loads by 25%; (3) cut out 50% of beef and food waste; and (4) decrease general consumer spending by 20%. The number at the top of each bar indicates total annual per capita emissions, with numbers below giving the different contributions per category. Figure by the author, based on data presented in [2].

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Academic with a background in medicine, mathematics, and engineering (MD,PhD). Interested in agriculture and how consumption drives global environmental change.

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