Government, private corporations should be held responsible for climate change
Climate change is beginning to feel more dire than ever.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report gave the world a deadline of 2030 to reduce emissions before global temperatures would rise more than 1.5°C without intervention, at which point climate change will become irreversible.
While we continue in our personal efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, we must hold our governments, energy providers and other corporations accountable for their large contributions to the global carbon footprint. Without their cooperation, our planet is doomed.
From media outlets, environmental organizations and our peers, there has been a more acute focus on personal environmental responsibility in light of this report.
I’m sure many of us have encountered a number of die-hard vegans advocating that everybody should abandon their meat in favor of a diet with a smaller carbon footprint, and though they mean well, building a personal eco-friendly lifestyle is only part of this complex equation.
A 2017 study from the Carbon Disclosure Project, a UK-based nonprofit dedicated to corporate transparency, shows that just 100 corporations are responsible for 71 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. This is in sharp contrast to the populations that suffer most from the consequences of such emissions: the poor and disenfranchised.
The bulk of the list is comprised of natural gas, coal and oil companies, all of which remain loosely regulated in favor of national economic growth in developed and developing countries alike. Because of the huge profit the fossil fuel industry yields for these countries, policy makers and lobbyists often end up valuing short-term gain over the long-term habitability of our planet.
Without governments of industrial nations like our own investing in clean energy alternatives and harshly regulating the emissions of oil giants like ExxonMobil, these corporations will remain in high demand.
The fact that they’re in high demand despite growing knowledge of fossil fuel’s carbon footprint is no incident.
In the United States alone, the industry spent $2 billion from 2000 to 2016 in lobbying against potential environment-protecting measures that sought to lower corporate emissions and increase funding for clean energy research.
This lobbying is not inconsequential; The oil, gas and coal industry receives an 11,900 percent return through federal protection and subsidies on every dollar spent on political investment.
Additionally, while recycling, adopting vegan diets and avoiding fast fashion are all great, they’re only as effective as the number of people willing to adopt these lifestyle changes. Currently, many of these potential changes are unenforced, inconvenient and inaccessible.
Maybe it isn’t right, but it is human nature to avoid inconveniences when there’s an easier and more accessible option, even if said option has long-term consequences. Therefore, the government regulation and pacts like The Paris Agreement are necessary to hold states, corporations and individuals accountable.
When there are measures enacted that enforce green lifestyles on a mass scale, they typically prove highly effective.
Take, for example, California’s plastic bag ban. Despite some initial protests, citizens were able and willing to find greener alternatives with little inconvenience, all with the added benefit of a reduction from 7.4 percent to 3.1 percent of plastic bag litter on California beaches from 2010 to 2017.
In Europe, the European Union sets comparably stricter emission regulations for its members.
The city government of Barcelona, Spain, pledged to reduce their CO2e emissions by 40 percent by 2030 after consistently failing to meet the EU’s air pollution standards. The city, one of the most populated in Europe, sectioned off areas of three-by-three city blocks to create large squares called superblocks in which no traffic is allowed and trees or community gardens can be planted.
The goal, at which they’ve succeeded, was to force residents, commuters and tourists to find greener methods of transportation while in the city, but it also had the added benefit of boosting the sales of local businesses within the superblocks.
Climate change is without a doubt an important and multifaceted issue with many factors contributing to it, but then again, it might not be as complicated as we’re taught to believe. Individual efforts do make an impact and often spread through communities creating a ripple effect, but we cannot put the onus of environmental reform on each other.
The fact of the matter is that any efforts to reduce carbon emissions through lifestyle changes would have to be organized and collective in order to make a significant impact before 2030, and that will be difficult to do without government compliance. Furthermore, all those efforts may prove null if those same governments neglect to enforce harsher regulations on the oil, gas and coal industries.
Opinion columnist Adison Eyring is a media productions and political science sophomore and can be reached at [email protected].