Pumpjack

Sometimes, in our struggle to address climate change, we need to see ourselves as facing not an incredibly complex (or “wicked”) problem (and one to which most of us contribute) but a clear-cut adversary. The world’s biggest fossil fuel companies inevitably make good candidates for that role, partly because they have done so much to delay political action, but also because they are literally the biggest source of the problem.

To learn more, an excellent place to begin is with a recent series from The Guardian. Starting on October 9, 2019, that paper published a significant cluster of stories in conjunction with the Climate Accountability Institute. The lead story is “Revealed: The 20 Firms behind a Third of All Carbon Emissions“; here is the first of three pages of links to the complete series (and a few later pieces).

Still, even identifying a clearly responsible party to blame might not make the climate problem look tractable: Getting off fossil fuels is a truly daunting challenge. Chris Turner’s essay “We’re Doomed. Now What?: An Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis” (The Walrus, November 2019) is more about its subtitle than its title. This thoughtful and thought-provoking look at some realistic but encouraging practicalities of converting the energy system makes a stimulating counterpart to the Guardian series. These stories update the 2017 Carbon Majors Report about the 100 most-carbon-polluting companies.

An important element in getting the world off fossil fuels involves how best to address the attendant, and fully understandable, concerns of all those who have been involved in the carbon economy, through employment or investments – including through retirement funds and pensions. A good starting place to learn about “stranded assets” is again in The Guardian.


This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.

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