A disambiguation about the “100 companies produce 71% of the world’s pollution” figure

I see the rhetoric that 100 companies produce 71% of world emissions thrown around a lot by people here. This statement is true, but somewhat misleading and I believe leads us to a somewhat incorrect attitude in terms of what’s actually happening.

The statistic comes from this section of this report, which details 100 companies as the origin of that pollution.

And if you look through the list, all of it is primary production- oil companies, coal companies, mining companies etc. Most of that is thoroughly awful and avoidable in some form or another.

The point however is that, if you catch a train running on diesel from one of those companies, you are a part of that figure. If a company pollutes using that oil in the production of various chemicals, that gets added to the original company’s figure. In other words, these companies are so large and have such a large proportion of primary production, a more honest and clear thing to say would be “the global economy’s deep and fundamental reliance on oil, gas, coal and mining by the end of the production chain produces at least 71% of the world’s emissions.”

Taking the fight to these companies means effectively prohibiting fossil fuel production. Which may well be the end goal, however it gives far greater clarity simply to come out and say that directly.

Again, it’s not that the statement is incorrect, it just is not particularly useful.

I guess this can be useful if you’re for instance trying to start a lawsuit or embargo a particular company or state or something, but in terms of general climate change action, mobilisation and awareness it’s not all that helpful.

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