It’s not just fossil fuels – A nexus of ‘carbon-connected’ industries is blocking climate action

  • Published on June 2nd, 2020

Back in 2017, when President Trump promised to bring back coal jobs, the fact that Arby’s employed more Americans than the coal industry went viral, and people realized just what a small subset of the population it is that is profiting off of climate change. The idea that only the fossil fuel industry is profiting from climate change, however, may be wrong. A new study published recently in the American Journal of Political Science, shows that opposition to climate action encompasses a much wider set of companies than just the fossil fuel industry.

coal smokestack vs clean power plan

By Climate Denier Roundup

By examining lobbying records and memberships in 83 different climate policy coalitions, the study finds that “public opposition to climate action” isn’t just coming from the fossil fuel industry but also “carbon-connected industries” and is “therefore broad-based, highly organized, and matched with extensive lobbying.”

It’s not just the fossil fuel industry that’s lobbying against climate action, but also companies that rely on fossil fuel energy for their own products, and those who sell goods and services to the fossil fuel industry. The researchers devised formulas to compare the CO2 Intensity of a company’s emissions from their supply chain, as well as their Downstream CO2 emissions from consumer use of their products. With these metrics for carbon emissions per dollar generated, they were able to show that the more carbon-intensive a company is overall, the more likely it is to oppose climate action.

The specifics are pretty dramatic. In the US, two-thirds (66%) of all climate lobbying is done by companies or coalitions opposed to climate action. Over half comes from the most carbon intensive firms, and a company that’s in the 75th percentile of carbon intensity is 57% more likely to join an anti-climate coalition or lobby against climate action than a company at the median.

Those at the 95th percentile of input CO2 intensity were twice as likely to join an anti-climate coalition than those at the 50th percentile, while “same increase for Downstream CO2 intensity increases the probability by 81%.”

Doubling a firm’s CO2 intensity increases the odds that it opposes climate action by 26%, while doubling a firm’s up or downstream intensities show even larger increases of 32% and 39%.

On the direct lobbying side, it’s basically the same story. The most carbon intensive companies are the ones doing the most lobbying, with over half of it coming from just the top 90th percentile.

What this all means is that while it’s plenty appropriate to talk about what the fossil fuel industry is doing, it’s important to recognize that it’s not just the industry itself backing denial organizations and coalitions, but cement and gypsum manufacturers too, because raising the cost of fossil fuels would raise the cost of their product. And on top of that, there’s also opposition coming from companies that sell things to the industry, like shipbuilders.

The top 20% most directly carbon-intensive industries, traditionally the fossil fuel industry types that we know and love, produce 67% of emissions, but overall, 73% of companies and just over half of all the trade associations that opposed climate action “have no business activity in these industries.”

So one would think they would have no activity in the climate denial industry, either, but unfortunately that does not appear to be the case.

(Crossposted with DailyKos)

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