I am pleased to announce the publication today of a new paper in the leading peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change with climate scientists and colleagues at Union of Concerned Scientists and University of Oxford. The research team developed a methodology for attributing and apportioning climate impacts among major carbon producers and identified potential responsibilities of key producers. Our paper (Ekwurzel et al., cited below) is accompanied by a Commentary by noted Oxford climate philosopher Henry Shue.
“Like the Carbon Majors analysis that it builds on, this report demonstrates the growing precision with which major carbon producers’ responsibility for climate change and climate impacts can be quantified, allocated and, ultimately, litigated,” said Carroll Muffett, President of the Center for International Environmental Law and member of the CAI Board of Directors.
Mary Christina Wood, Philip H. Knight Professor at Univ. of Oregon School of Law, noted that “behind the destructive hurricanes, wildfires, floods, heatwaves, and sea level rise is a terribly damaged climate system. This study connects the dots between the science and the corporations responsible. It is vastly important for laying the legal groundwork to hold corporations accountable before it is too late.”
The Climate Accountability Institute’s Press Release can be found here.
The paper can be found here.
Ekwurzel, B., J. Boneham, M.W. Dalton, R. Heede, R.J. Mera, M.R. Allen, & P.C. Frumhoff (2017) The rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level from emissions traced to major carbon producers, Climatic Change, online 7Sep.
Shue, Henry (2017) Responsible for What? Carbon Producer CO2 Contributions and the Energy Transition, Springboard Commentary on Ekwurzel et al., Climatic Change, online 7Sep.
Researchers have quantified the contributions of industrialized and developing nations’ historical emissions to global surface temperature rise. Recent findings that nearly two-thirds of total industrial CO2 and CH4 emissions can be traced to 90 major industrial carbon producers have drawn attention to their potential climate responsibilities. Here, we use a simple climate model to quantify the contribution of historic (1880–2010) and recent (1980–2010) emissions traced to these producers to the historic rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level. Emissions traced to these 90 carbon producers contributed ~57% of the observed rise in atmospheric CO2, ~42–50% of the rise in global mean surface temperature (GMST), and ~26–32% of global sea level (GSL) rise over the historical period and ~43% (atmospheric CO2), ~29–35% (GMST), and ~11–14% (GSL) since 1980 (based on best-estimate parameters and accounting for uncertainty arising from the lack of data on aerosol forcings traced to producers). Emissions traced to seven investor-owned and seven majority state-owned carbon producers were consistently among the top 20 largest individual company contributors to each global impact across both time periods. This study lays the groundwork for tracing emissions sourced from industrial carbon producers to specific climate impacts and furthers scientific and policy consideration of their historical responsibilities for climate change.
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