Shift of Responsibility: The Climate Change Issue

A new report from the International Panel on Climate Change called individuals, governments and corporations to take major action in the attempt to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The reports call for “drastic action on the policy scale, the business and industry scale, but also on part of the consumers.”

Throughout a CNN’s article on the matter, titled “What the new report on climate change expects from you”, writer Eliza Mackintosh kept going back to the role of the individual, who can “unequivocally” help meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Mackintosh also provided some very helpful tips on how you could reduce your carbon footprint by changing your lifestyle. Besides the aforementioned quotation from the IPCC, nothing about the role of industries and corporations regarding climate change was mentioned.

On the 14th of October 2018, CNN tweeted the following: “Scared by that new report on climate change? Here’s what you can do to help:
• Eat less meat (about 30%)
• Swap your car or plane ride for a bus or train
• Use a smart thermostat in your home, and upgrade to more efficient appliances” as an attempt to spread awareness about the climate change issues we are facing, and how we can attempt to reduce our carbon footprint by minimizing our contribution to the worldwide increase of greenhouse gases.

However, writer Adam Johnson had the following to say as a response: “reminder that 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions and presenting the crisis as a moral failing on the part of individuals without noting this fact is journalistic malpractice.”

As we can see, Johnson is criticizing CNN for concealing a large part of the truth. The truth that, although it’s true that we should be taking actions to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, individual regular citizens are simply not as guilty as we think.

Surely, by using public transport we are reducing the emissions released by our cars, and reducing our consumption of meat and dairy is, as The Guardian proclaims: “the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet”. We do have a major effect on the climate change as individuals.

However, even if all individuals take the best measures to reduce their carbon footprint, we are still left with the biggest culprit: the corporations. 100 corporations have caused 71% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the last 30 years, a quarter of these corporations are responsible for half the damage; China’s coal industry, Saudi Aramco, and Russia’s Gazprom are the top three greenhouse gas emitters, according to The Independent.

Why is the blame being shifted towards individuals, and why aren’t the corporations being properly held accountable? Simply, the answer is they are worth too much money. Saudi Aramco is worth 2 trillion USD according to Saudi Arabia. China’s coal industry has an annual revenue of around 412 billion USD. Russia’s Gazprom was valued at 123.2 billion USD. It is evident that these corporations make a lot of money, so much so that greenhouse gas emissions are not relevant to those profiting from them.

What we can do as individuals, besides doing our best to minimize our carbon footprint, is to pressure these corporations to stop ruining our earth. We can do so by electing parties that are more green, we can push our governments towards making environmentally smarter choices. We can make sure that the products we are buying are from ethical corporations who do put in effort to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. We can advocate, spread awareness about those who need to take action the most.


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