Just twenty companies have contributed to to 35 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions produced since 1965, according to a new report from the Climate Accountability Institute.
State-owned Saudi Aramco, Gazprom and National Iranian Oil Co, as well as Chevron and Exxonmobil, were the top five contributors to the massive amount of emissions linked to the 20 companies, according to the research, which was first reported by The Guardian on Wednesday.
"In my view, fossil fuel firms were morally and legally obliged to warn that continued use of carbon fuels threatens our health and welfare, and to accelerate the conversation on how to reduce the threat," co-director of the Climate Accountability Institute Richard Heede wrote in an editorial published by The Guardian. "Instead the industry has for decades invested millions in climate denial and obfuscation in order to delay legislative action and avoid losing market share."
Heede said that seven-eighths of the emissions linked to the fossil fuel companies came from product use. BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Coal India, Pemex, Petróeos de Venezuela, PetroChina, Peabody Energy, ConocoPhillips, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co, Kuwait Petroleum Corp, Iraq National Oil Co, Sonatrach, BHP Billiton and Petrobras were the other companies among the 20 listed.
The Guardian reported that the companies who commented for the article pointed to their investments in renewable energy.
The report from the Climate Accountability Institute illuminates the overwhelming role fossil fuel companies have had in driving climate change. Millions of people flooded streets around the world prior to the U.N. Climate Summit last month to demand that global governments take bolder action to address global warming.
Even so, countries provided lackluster commitments at the summit. Although a total of 67 countries have now pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, many of the world's largest emitters have not committed to the transformative action needed for rapid decarbonization.
"Most of the major economies fell woefully short," World Resources Institute President & CEO Andrew Steer said in a statement during the summit. "Their lack of ambition stands in sharp contrast with the growing demand for action around the world."
Protesters have continued agitating for decarbonization and divestment from fossil fuels. Earlier this week, demonstrators from environmental group Extinction Rebellion blocked roads in countries including Germany, Australia and the Netherlands. The group has called for the United Kingdom government to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
As Extinction Rebellion continues protesting for bolder climate action, others, like Greta Thunberg, are also continuing to push for a faster global response.
Experts and activists have regularly noted that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said the world needs to reduce global emissions by 45 percent from 2010 by 2030 to ensure that global temperatures don't rise beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.