Stephen Ellison

Big Oil Companies Linked to Big Chunk of Climate Change Effects: Study

A new study pins damages from sea level rise and climate change on select large oil, gas and coal companies.

The Union of Concerned Scientists says its research, published Sept. 7 in the journal Climate Change, shows the largest carbon producers are responsible for 50 percent of the rise in global warming and a third of the rise in sea level.

In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the billions of dollars that taxpayers are going to shell out to rebuild Houston and South Florida, the new study gained some context. It’s accepted science that warmer waters fuel bigger hurricanes, and the great majority of scientists acknowledge that greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, are making the planet warmer.

The study, authored by Peter Frumhoff, Ph.D., chief climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, links climate change with specific fossil energy companies.

"The largest being Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and others; nearly a third of the rise in global sea level can be attributed to the emissions from these same companies," Frumhoff said.

Frumhoff, a global ecologist who earned Ph.D. from UC Davis, has taught at Stanford and Harvard universities and was a climate change adviser to the U.S. Department of Interior.

"It’s groundbreaking work," he said of the study. "It’s the basis upon which we can begin to identify how much of the damage from sea level, for example, that we’re seeing from storm surges from Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma might be, in principal, attributed to the emissions of the products from different companies."

Frumhoff claims fossil fuel companies have known for decades about the risk of burning carbon and about global warming, but they chose to invest in disinformation campaigns and fund climate deniers.

He said it follows a historic pattern of "when companies could’ve taken action but did not, just like tobacco companies, asbestos companies, lead companies who failed to warn the public about the risks of their product."

The Union of Concerned Scientists has been heavily involved in climate change issues and politics.

The Western States Petroleum Association did not immediately respond to requests fro comment on the study's findings.

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