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who is to blame?

Who is to blame for climate change? This is one of the hardest questions to ask in the face of climate change. From oil companies that emanate fossil fuels, to wealthy corporations, to politicians, and even all of humanity, it is easy to find fault and point fingers all over. Questioning who is responsible for the imminent climate crisis is more important than you might think; the answer to this question will inevitably have a large impact over the solutions that must be enacted in order to fix the earth. There are people who do not have access to fast, reliable electricity, resulting in the use of high emission diesel generators to power their homes. Although we could theoretically ask them to pay for the emissions they spend, this does not mean that they are to blame. It is important to recognize those who hold power over the choices available to the world. By challenging the world’s power dynamic, we can better introduce ways to allocate responsibility to those who should be stepping up.

“Fossil Fuel Companies” Fossil Fuel firms have always been A major stake in the rise of crisis. According to a report by the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) in 2017, over the previous two decades, 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions were from one hundred fossil fuel producers. An update predicted that one third of the world’s emissions today came from the top twenty fossil fuel firms; twelve of which are state owned. “ExxonMobil knew about climate change for decades and spent millions of dollars lobbying, to block cutting emissions. Many now think these companies have done everything in their power to continue their business practice and profit.” “Rich People” If you had the means to afford luxury, would you? The richer you are, the more choices you have to make within your everyday lifestyle. As easy as it is to buy an expensive car or expensive items, the choice to abstain from such purchases reduces one’s overall effects on the environment. Rich people all have a responsibility to care for the environment, arguably even more so than anyone else should. A recent study conducted by the University of Leeds found that the richest 10% of the population used 20x more energy than the poorest 10%. This comes from extravagant long distant flights, car rides, holidays, and pointless purchases. Another responsibility they have is their influence; some have more power to influence governments and companies that drive policies, therefore holding more power that could be used to help our world. “Rich Countries” By seeing which countries emit the most CO2, there is an observable pattern. It has been proven that the richer a country is, the more CO2 the country produces. This is because wealthier countries have larger carbon footprints. The world’s richest countries have released a massive amount of emissions throughout history. For example, the US has emitted more CO2 than any country has in history, which accounts for a quarter of all emissions since 1751. Even with China’s rise in emissions over the past decade, their emissions per person still sit at less than half of the US’s. Compared to Africa which has a population of over 1 billion, the citizens only emit 1/20 of what a US citizen would on average. “Us” Whether or not you believe that emissions cuts should be an international matter, it is clear that richer countries should be ones taking action. Are we meant to take responsibility for our countries’ emissions? Are we to blame for climate change? If we look at our system, in a certain way yes, we are. We are the creators of the demand for industry products and the consumers of large amounts of energy; our everyday actions and purchases can be linked to an unsustainable portion of emissions. By viewing climate inaction through the lens of power, those who have less power can still act to confront it. By understanding the structures of power and the systems that decide our choices, we can try to see where to start enacting change within our communities. “To avoid confronting power is to risk condoning a system that is inherently unsustainable and unjust. Sources “Yes, Actually, Individual Responsibility Is Essential to Solving the Climate Crisis.”Sierra Club, 4 Dec. 2019, www.sierraclub.org/sierra/yes-actually-individual-responsibility-essential-solving-climate-crisis. Morten Fibieger Byskov Postdoctoral Researcher in International Politics. “Climate Change: Focusing on How Individuals Can Help Is Very Convenient for Corporations.” The Conversation, 28 Apr. 2021, theconversation.com/climate-change-focusing-on-how-individuals-can-help-is-very-convenient-for-corporations-108546. “Who Is Really to Blame for Climate Change?” BBC Future, BBC, www.bbc.com/future/article/20200618-climate-change-who-is-to-blame- and-why-does-it-matter. “Revealed: the 20 Firms behind a Third of All Carbon Emissions.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 Oct. 2019, www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/09/revealed-20-firms-third-carbon-emissions. “New Report Shows Just 100 Companies Are Source of over 70% of Emissions.” CDP, www.cdp.net/en/articles/media/new-report-shows-just-100-companies-are-source-of-over-70-of-emissions.


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