In this article we are going to list the 20 companies that are the biggest polluters in the world. Click to skip ahead and jump to the 10 companies that are the biggest polluters in the world. Look, I don’t think there are many educated people who do not know about climate change or don’t believe it’s real. It may have been easier to dismiss as hype a couple of decades or more ago, since the warnings were deemed as hyperbole and the effects weren’t being witnesses. All that has changed now. Every year is on average hotter than the last and this has been going on for a few years. 2020 is in fact tied to be the hottest year on record and the last five years have been the hottest since 1880, which is simply more undeniable evidence that global warming is real and it is happening right now. Weather patters have changed dramatically as well, with more extreme temperatures being witnessed in both summers and winters and the frequency and intensity of devastating storms increasing as well.
Now that the world has started to accept that climate change is real, the focus has increased on how to reverse it or at least limit the damage. Everywhere you go, you will see signs telling you to ditch plastic, reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding flights and taking trains, using paper straws rather than plastic, carpooling or taking public transport to reduce the damage being done to the world. Eat less meat and instead consume more vegetables while trying to conserve as much energy as possible. The message is loud and clear; it is on each and every one of us to reduce the impact of climate change and save the world from even more damage. But is it on each and every one of us? This is the message that major corporations want to send to lessen their own responsibilities and the impact of their policies and activities. Look, I’m not saying that the individual message is incorrect; with nearly 8 billion people in the world and growing consistently, whatever activities the mass adopts will definitely have a major impact, and following the above instructions will definitely help fight climate change. However, that will still have a limited impact and is often an attempt by corporations to shine the spotlight elsewhere.
At the end of the day, the power of consumers pales in comparison to that of the biggest corporations in the world. It is the responsibility of government to protect individuals and keep large corporations in check because such companies already have too much power and influence. However, in the case of environmental protections, despite stricter regulations at least in advanced countries, a lot more should be done to hold these countries accountable. Fines of millions of dollars or even tens of millions of dollars are nothing to companies which earn hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and tens of billions in income. These companies are at the top of their games and belong to various industries but are generally in the mining sector or the oil and gas sector, which are two of the most lucrative sectors in the world and home to some of the biggest companies in the world as well. Do you want to know an astounding statistic that will put all the emphasis on individuals to fight climate change to shame? Since 1988, just 100 companies across the world have been responsible for a stunning 71% of all global emissions. Just 20 companies, both corporate as well as state owned, are responsible for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. All of these 20 companies are in the fossil fuel industry which of course is no surprise since burning fossil fuels causes the greatest damage. This also shows how important the developments in the renewable energy sectors are, especially in the attempt to fight climate change and you can learn more about this if you head on over to the 10 biggest solar companies in the world and 10 largest wind energy companies in the world.
The worst part is, it’s not like these companies are unaware of the impact of their operations, yet they continue to expand their activities with little concern for the environment. Like I mentioned earlier, they’re happy to pay fines which aren’t even really material to them and simply continue harming the world unabated. The statistic used in our rankings are from a study carried out by the Climate Accountability Institute, and are based on the years 1965 to 2017, which was the year the report came out. Why is 1965 a starting point? Well, that’s the year when the impact of burning fossil fuels on the environment was well-known globally. It’s also no coincidence that one of the companies in our list is responsible for the worst oil spill in history and yet still continues to be ranked among the biggest and most powerful companies in the world. When you go through this list, you will realize that you recognize most if not all of the companies in our list. While some of these companies, and other major energy companies across the world are pivoting towards renewable energy resources. Whether these companies remain the biggest companies in the world a couple of decades from now, remains to be seen. Till then, let’s take a look at the companies most responsible for damaging our environment, starting with number 20:
20. Petrobras (NYSE:PBR)
Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 8.68
Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 0.64%
Brazil’s biggest oil company kicks off our list and while has had some successes such as rebuilding Brazil’s humpback whale population, it has also had more than a dozen oil spills in the past 5 decades.