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Only 100 Corporations Responsible For Most of World’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

In early September 2021, the below-displayed compilation of alleged tweets had been circulating on quite a few Reddit threads. CNN supposedly provided a number of strategies for a way folks of their day-to-day life might assist mitigate greenhouse fuel emissions, after which a media analyst responded with this critique:

“[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.”

Each tweets had been genuine, although initially posted in October 2018.

The underlying declare stemmed from Adam Johnson, a writer and co-host of the podcast “Citations Needed.” Briefly, his put up accused CNN of erroneously framing the disaster because the outcome of particular person alternative when, allegedly, simply dozens of firms had been accountable for almost all of emissions trapping warmth within the Earth’s environment.

Nonetheless, the tweet was deceptive primarily based on proof we define under. After the put up went viral, Johnson acknowledged the put up’s shortcomings on an April 2020 episode of his podcast, saying: “The stat, albeit widely reported that way in the press, is deceiving in its media shorthand.”

The Story Behind CNN’s Tweet

Earlier than we establish the declare’s flaws, allow us to present some context to clarify CNN’s tweet.

On Oct. 8, 2018, CNN tweeted a number of strategies for folks to assist curb greenhouse fuel emissions (eat much less meat, take automobile rides or airplane journeys much less usually, and change previous thermostats) to advertise an article printed by the information outlet on the identical day titled, “What the new report on climate change expects from you.”

The tweet’s reference to “that new report on climate change” alluded to a multi-chapter document that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had launched the identical day. Briefly, that report in contrast numerous methods for slowing (or pausing) the speed at which Earth’s common floor temperature was warming, in addition to supplied suggestions for governments to contemplate whereas establishing regulatory legal guidelines.

Primarily based on our assessment of the report, the crux of the CNN tweet principally aligned with the report’s concepts — although it’s value noting the social media put up editorialized the IPCC’s findings with a “second person” level of view (it referred to the speaker’s viewers) and cherry-picked ideas amongst quite a few methods to mitigate local weather change.

No, ‘100 Corporations’ Are Not To Blame For ‘71%’ of International Emissions

Now, allow us to deal with the veracity of Johnson’s commendatory. Primarily based on a cursory Google seek for key phrases in his tweet, we uncovered a July 10, 2017, article in The Guardian with the headline: “Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says.”

By way of Twitter direct messaging, Johnson confirmed with us that he authored the viral social media put up primarily based on that headline. We elaborate extra on his pondering under.

The Guardian article summarized a July 2017 “Carbon Majors” study by an environmental non-profit referred to as CDP and the Climate Accountability Institute, a “tiny think tank” as outlined by the Scientific American.

Nonetheless, right here was the issue: The research didn’t assess all sources of world emissions worldwide (which incorporates agriculture, transportation, buildings’ heating and cooling techniques) however somewhat solely analyzed the output of fossil-fuel producers, particularly. Its introduction learn:

“This report looks at industrial carbon dioxide and methane emissions deriving from fossil fuel producers in the past, present, and future […] [It] is aimed at investors wishing to better understand amount of carbon associated with their fossil fuel holdings.”

Due to this fact, The Guardian headline — which didn’t be aware the research’s strict deal with fossil gasoline combustion — was unequivocally deceptive. (We reached out to an editor to debate the editorial error, however we’ve got not but obtained a response.) It gave the impression to be centered on this discovering within the report:

The distribution of emissions is concentrated: 25 company and state producing entities account for 51% of world industrial [greenhouse gas] emissions. All 100 [fossil fuel] producers account for 71% of world industrial [greenhouse] fuel emissions.

In different phrases, virtually three fourths of worldwide fossil gasoline emissions had been certainly linked to only 100 firms, primarily based on the research. These firms included Saudi Arabian Oil Firm (Aramco), (*100*), and National Iranian Oil Company. In the meantime, collectively, these top-emitting fossil gasoline firms produced roughly half of all greenhouse fuel emissions worldwide.

Shaina Sadai, a Ph.D. in geosciences on the College of Massachusetts Amherst, elaborated on the researchers’ work, in addition to defined the results of its misinterpretations, in a November 2020 put up on Sentient Media. In abstract, she mentioned the research targeted on “one piece of the puzzle” — the manufacturing of oil, fuel, coal, and cement — when whole world emissions consists of cumulative outputs from different sectors, as effectively. Sadai wrote:

The discovering that 100 firms had been accountable for almost all of fossil gasoline and cement manufacturing emissions is substantial, nevertheless it doesn’t inform us about whole emissions or about emissions from different sectors. […]

To be able to get to net-zero emissions, all potential sources have to be thought-about. Fossil fuels are the most important supply, however each sector must be scrutinized. Emissions from the agriculture sector have quite a few sources. Modifications in land use; for example, when land that served one goal is then used for an additional, similar to when a rainforest is changed into pasture result in elevated emissions. These modifications aren’t included within the Carbon Majors analysis, and extra importantly, the emission sources they replicate aren’t both.

Put one other method, whereas fossil fuels are the most important supply of greenhouse fuel emissions and the research’s identification of the sector’s 100 worst-offenders is necessary, different industries (such because the food system and waste-management applications) contribute to world emissions, as effectively. 

See under for a 2020 sector-by-sector breakdown of emissions by the World Resources Institute:

In sum, we charge this declare “False.” Whereas the fossil gasoline trade accounts for a major quantity of all greenhouse fuel emissions, and analysis analyzing that idea recognized dozens of fuel or oil firms that pollute probably the most, no proof supported the declare as written.

“The point I was trying to make is that any media coverage that reduces the issue to personal choices is incomplete, and [structural] issues should always be central to climate reporting,” Johnson instructed us. “Individuals’ choices are not unimportant. They just shouldn’t be the focus of climate coverage.”


Wanted, Citations. “Episode 108: How Our ‘GDP’ Obsession Drives Climate Crisis and Inequality.” Medium, 29 Apr. 2020, aCCESSED 8 Sept. 2021.

Waterproof coat, By Eliza. “What the New Report on Climate Change Expects from You.” CNN, 8 Oct. 2018, Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.

International Warming of 1.5 oC —. Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.

“Just 100 Companies Responsible for 71% of Global Emissions, Study Says.” The Guardian, 10 July 2017, Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.

Horgan, John. “Exposing the World’s Biggest Carbon Emitters.” Scientific American Weblog Community, Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.

Sadai, Shaina. “No, 100 Companies Are Not Responsible for 71% of Emissions.” Sentient Media, Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.

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