The climate crisis is not just caused by corporations or governments. It’s our personal choices demanding carbon-intensive lifestyles.
Lately I see a growing discussion pushing more and more responsibility on corporates and major polluters for GHG emissions.
The facts are simple, the big 5 (including aramco ) oil giants are directly GHG responsible to an incredible amount of GHG, about 2.8 gigaton which is about 5.6% of the annual global GHG.
Angry voices claiming that the entire idea of carbon footprint was invented by the oil industry (specifically by bp ) to put the blame on us the individuals.
BP indeed ordered this campaign in 2000 (it won the Gold Effie reward), and launched the carbon footprint calculator in 2004, and their intentions were to make us all feel a shame for climate. But life is complicated and is not black or white – it is not about either the corporates (headed by the oil and gas industry) or us individuals. It is about all of us, and we all have to take responsibility to contribute and in taking climate actions.
Studies show that in developed nations, household consumption drives 50-70% of carbon footprints when you account for supply chain impacts.
Corporates must take drastic actions, but the fact of the matter is that they supply what we demand.
Studies show that in developed nations, household consumption drives 50-70% of carbon footprints when you account for supply chain impacts (Ivanova et al. 2017, Wood et al. 2019). Our collective behaviours as consumers directly enable climate change daily.
We heat 4,000 square foot homes, eating meat at every meal. Beef production alone generates up to 105 kg of CO2 per kg of food, 10-40 times more than vegetables (Poore & Nemecek 2018). If each family reduced beef consumption by half, it would save 360kg of CO2 annually.
We constantly upgrade functional phones to the latest models. Manufacturing a new smartphone generates up to 85 kg of emissions (Andrae & Edler 2015). Using phones just 1-2 years longer reduces individual footprints significantly.
We buy disposable fast fashion. The average American discards over 70 pounds of clothing per year. Producing a pound of polyester releases 5-6 kg of CO2. Scaling sustainable textiles would avoid huge emissions.
We travel long distances frequently by plane. Each roundtrip transatlantic flight emits 1-2 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. Skipping one flight a year makes a measurable difference.
Our outsized consumption depends on fossil fuels powering far-reaching supply chains. The average Americans lifestyle currently requires over 15 tonnes of CO2e per year, 4 times the global sustainable rate (Global Footprint Network).
Transforming collective behaviour is hard when even personal habits prove difficult to change. We cling to familiar routines though the benefits of evolving are clear. This resistance persists even as the climate threat compounds.
“This is one of the most successful, deceptive PR campaigns maybe ever,” said Benjamin Franta, referring to BP’s carbon footprint campaign.
Sure, some righteous souls are out there who recycle everything they possibly can swear off single-use plastics, use renewable energy, make tea with rainwater, and a hundred others. But it means a total lifestyle change and most of us aren’t willing to do that.
“This is one of the most successful, deceptive PR campaigns maybe ever,” said Benjamin Franta , who researches law and history of science as a J.D.-Ph.D. student at Stanford Law School, referring to BP’s carbon footprint campaign.
The oil giant infused the term into our normal lexicon. (And the sentiment is not wrong) But there’s now robust, plain evidence that the word “carbon footprint” was always a sham and should be considered in a new light — not the way a giant oil conglomerate, who just a decade (and something) ago leaked hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, wants to frame your climate impact.
Progress hinges on collectively re-writing old narratives of helplessness. We are far from powerless. Every lifestyle adapted, voice raised and vote cast chips away at inertia. United by actions and determination, humanity can still bend the arc of climate change. But empowerment is the key. Will we find it?