Who is really responsible for destroying and fixing the climate?

A CarbonCancel blog by
Raúl van Kleef, Creative Native | 14/04/2020

“A few large companies and their political accomplices are single-handedly destroying the planet for their own financial gain. We need to rebel and take action against big oil and coal.”

“Climate change is you and me. If we would all just change our lifestyle for the better, this climate problem would be fixed in no time.”

You’ve probably heard some form of either argument before. Personally, I catch both of these thoughts running through my brain from time to time. When I read the latest headlines about big oil companies’ greenwashing campaigns, my anger takes aim at the big guys. But when I open my own fridge to see that I reneged on my new year’s resolution not to buy meat anymore, I’m disappointed in my own behaviour.

So, who's responsible for the current climate catastrophe: them or us?

While both arguments start from a fair assessment, they seem to conflict and certainly the conclusions for climate action differ vastly between the two interpretations. Do I need to buy a better boiler or should they stop burning fossil fuels?

In my view, both!

Each argument actually has truth to it. A recent report calculated that 100 companies are responsible for around 71% percent of worldwide emissions. This is an absolutely crazy figure, and highlights an important issue with corporate short term profits and responsibility.

But before you grab your pitchfork, it’s worth noting that these companies respond to a global demand. In fact, the entire list is made up of energy companies, who burn fossil fuels in order for factories to produce, cars to run and houses to be warmed.

That’s where we as consumers come in. Cutting out meat from your diet, switching to green energy and not taking the plane will reduce the amount of CO2 your lifestyle demands. All these individual actions will help reduce the fossil fuels that we consume.

Yet, doing this on a scale grand enough to actually halt climate change will require such sacrifices from many individuals. In order to achieve this within the limited amount of time, it may be good to artificially reduce supply and demand. 

One interesting way to achieve this is the carbon-tax: a measure that would increase the price of goods with excessive CO2 emissions to reflect the real costs to the environment. This would tackle both sides of the climate argument. On the one hand, it would steer individuals towards making climate-friendly choices, because climate-unfriendly choices become more expensive. On the other hand, it  punishes heavily polluting companies by increasing their production costs and reducing their demand.

In any way, supply and demand as well as collective and individual are deeply connected, and saving the planet will require change on every level of our society.

PS. We will be back soon with more blogs on interesting solutions such as the climate tax, and tips on how you as an individual can have the greatest impact on the big climate picture. Keep an eye on our social media to stay up to date!

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