Over the last few decades, climate change and pollution have become an ever-increasing cause of concern due to the threats they pose, be it floods, hurricanes, habitat destruction or any number of natural disasters. Due to this increasing concern, there’s been a huge push for individuals to cut down on their personal impact. This can be seen everywhere with initiatives like Save the Turtles, the increasing popularity of electric cars and many advertisements generally pushing for people to decrease both their waste and carbon emissions.
This is fantastic; living in a cleaner and more environmentally friendly world is something that positively impacts every aspect of our life. But the tendency to push the blame for climate change and pollution onto individuals is not only wrong but intentionally malicious on the part of massive energy and fossil fuel companies, the entities truly at fault.
This last year has shown many just how devastating the coming climate crisis will be, be it the floods in Louisiana and New York, or the “hell portal” that came as the result of a ruptured pipeline. These events underscore just how dire the fight against climate change is and sadly how individuals really can’t do much to help. This is because the vast majority of global emissions are created by just a small handful of fossil fuel and energy corporations.
To be more exact, around 71% of global emissions are put out by just 100 different companies. This number makes one thing very clear: it is up to these corporations and the governments that regulate them, not individuals, to curb climate change.
The issue is that historically, strong enough action hasn’t been taken. Fossil fuel companies always look after their own interests, and then they pay politicians to support them as well. What this means is that before society can even think about stopping climate change, there must be a total shift in how both governments and businesses operate. First, companies must be held fully accountable for every single bit of carbon emissions and pollution that they create, and the only way to do this is to completely rework how lobbying and corporate interest are structured, both in America and around the world. Big oil has a stranglehold on American democracy, and this greed will soon destroy the entire world.
Some may argue that the only reason these businesses are producing emissions is that individuals create the demand for it. People drive cars that use fossil fuels, use lights and devices that use electricity and wear clothes that create far more emissions than one might expect. While this argument is partially true, many of these emissions come from attempts to make production as convenient as possible for these corporations: A purposeful lack of research into renewable energy makes fossil fuels a much more convenient form of energy for production. This two-pronged issue could be solved by implementing stronger regulations on energy production and increasing funding for research into renewable energy.
While corporations are the drivers of climate change, this does not mean that the average person can’t do anything to combat it. First, people can try to live as carbon neutral as possible, either by using motorized vehicles less frequently, eating less beef or using less electricity. But an even greater way to help is to strongly advocate for the solutions that will create an even more significant change. This can include protesting, directly contacting public officials or doing public outreach.
While a massive portion of global emissions and pollution does not come from individuals, there is still a lot of work to be done by those same individuals to save the world from a global crisis. People must be vigilant in changing institutions and systems that have let the world get this close to the brink of a complete climate disaster in order to stop the corporations that have done it.
While it may already be too late to completely keep the world from seeing the damaging effects of climate change, everyone must be involved in making sure it doesn’t get any worse, especially those at the top.
Keoni Jones is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.