The Claim That '71% of Emissions Are from Only 100 Corporations' Is Misleading

I keep seeing quotes like '71% of emissions come from only 100 companies' used to imply that corporations like BP are responsible for nearly all emissions, and that is misleading.

Quick...of those 100 companies, which one is the top emitter? Exxon? Shell?'s actually China. Here is the report that people are usually citing. Look at the tables in the appendices at the end. The top three emitters are all countries or national industries. The only two in the top 10 that I would think of as a corporation are Exxon (#5 with 2.0%) and Shell (#9 at 1.7%). Two of the top 10 are China, and those two by themselves account for over 15%.

8 of the top 10, and 43 of the top 100, are governments or government-owned companies.

Maybe I'm just misunderstanding people when they say this. The way I generally see it used though makes me think they're talking about publicly-traded, for-profit companies. I often see it cited as a reason why socialism would solve climate change. This report seems like a bad argument to use for that. I also see it cited as a reason why changing demand for energy wouldn't affect emissions.

A previous version of this report had a nicer breakdown in my opinion. There's no point in me summarizing that one as the link itself is just summary tables and they're formatted more nicely than I will format it.

Finally...the 'source of emissions' argument here feels strange to me. These are the suppliers of fossil fuels that are used by consumers, other companies, etc. to create emissions. These companies aren't burning the fuels themselves. They aren't creating the demand either in general (this gets hazy with nations and state-owned companies). If consumer usage were limited through things like fuel-efficiency standards in cars and if prices for these fuels were made accurate through things like carbon taxes, the demand for the fuel would go down. Does Wal-Mart really bear no responsibility for its emissions? What about the US military? What about companies providing same-day and two-day shipping of individual items?

Shifting all accounting of emissions to the suppliers and not factoring in the demand that they're meeting seems off.

Image taken from here.

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