climate change corporate responsibility design

The carbon in the room

In the room you’re sitting in, there will be a mixture of gases – nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide. Some of that carbon dioxide will be from burning fossil fuels. Theoretically, you could work out how much carbon dioxide various activities or different companies have contributed to the air in the room.

That’s what the Carbon Majors report attempts to do. Author Richard Heede has discovered that two thirds of emissions since the beginning of industrialisation are attributable to 90 large institutions – mostly oil and mining corporations, with a handful of big cement companies. Their impact is considerable. In the average small room there will be enough CO2 from Chevron to fill a coke can.


You get just short of another can out of ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco too, with BP and Gazprom rounding out the top five.


That’s a curious fact, and one for you to think about, but the point is not to analyse the content of rooms, but to highlight the role of carbon producers. Climate change negotiations are generally around developed countries and their consumption of fossil fuels. So it should be, but the role of producers is easily overlooked. That includes shareholder corporations, state-run enterprises, and the producer countries themselves, says the study:

“Without minimizing the responsibility of Annex I nations, nor of China and India, often discussed, this analysis highlights the role of some non-Annex I nations, such Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, Iran, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Libya, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, and other countries that have not been at the center of discussions regarding responsibility for controlling emissions. Some of these nations are, in their role as carbon producers, as important contributors to climate change as the Annex I nations who until now have been the focus of attention.”

These images are from Carbon Visuals, who I’ve mentioned before. If you want to see the carbon majors total CO2 contribution rather than just the bit in your room, visit their Flickr page.

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