Denial and delayed shift matter as oil majors opt for profits and accrue responsibility: Top 90 carbon producers account for 43% of emissions rise from 1980-2010. Combustion from the top 20 is 19.6%

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 historical (1880–2010) and recent (1980–2010) emissions traced to these producers to the historical 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.