It’s the middle of summer, and the temperature has been reaching almost 100 degrees. But as carbon emissions continue to rise, the planet is only going to keep getting hotter. With many attempts to prevent climate disaster being blocked or repealed, it seems what needs to be changed is not just how we treat individual corporations, but the way the economy and the system as a whole function.
A New York Times analysis of the policy changes under the current Trump Administration reveals that 83 different regulations have been rolled back or are in the process of being rolled back, with 22 of them being related to air pollution. This is during a time when levels of carbon dioxide in the air are at “unprecedented levels” according to a study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. According to Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a lead climate analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, temperatures by 2050 could reach levels that “[make] it difficult for human bodies to cool themselves and could be deadly.”
To pin this problem solely on the Trump administration, however, would be false. An article by researchers from both the U.S. and China published in Nature reveals that more than half of future carbon emissions are expected to come from China, the U.S, and the European Union, the three highest predicted sources of emissions. Although China is the highest by a large margin, expected to emit 41% of the carbon, the US and EU are expected to make up 9% and 7% respectively, which is still a large amount. Climate change is a global problem, but the ones responsible are a few wealthy industrial nations.
Yet despite some of the wealthiest countries being the main causes of climate change, the ones that are being hit hardest by it are those that are less fortunate. According to a study by researchers at Stanford University in California, the wealth gap between the richest and poorest countries is 25% higher than it would be without climate change. Not only are the choices that the U.S, Europe, and China are making going to cause disaster for their citizens in a few decades, those choices are also disastrous for the most vulnerable countries right now.
So why is climate change still an issue? Why do we have a government that is reversing policies that would prevent climate change? The answer to these questions, it seems, is money. Think Tanks such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which spends a large number of its resources on promoting climate change denial, receive funding from a variety of wealthy corporations.
The CEI is funded not only by the Charles Koch Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers, which are known for lobbying against the regulation of fossil fuels, but also by larger companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, according to the New York Times. This is because the CEI, as an Amazon spokeswoman said, “will help advance policy objectives aligned with [Amazon’s] interests.”
The reason these corporations fund the same organizations as fossil fuel lobbyists is that despite how much Amazon or Google may claim to oppose the fossil fuel industry, they both have the same top priority: promoting a pro-corporation, anti-regulation agenda. In the case of the CEI, their beliefs, aside from man-made climate change not being an issue, include opposing a $15 minimum wage and wanting to repeal antitrust laws, both of which are in the interests of large companies that probably would become trusts if they were legally allowed to. They may sign a declaration in support of global climate agreements, but they will still be naturally allied with the AFPM, as will nearly every for-profit corporation.
The fossil fuel companies themselves also have far too much influence. In Oklahoma, a state agency funded mainly by oil companies creates classroom materials and teacher training, according to the Washington Post. The goal of these classroom materials is, to downplay climate change and promote the usage of oil.
We cannot trust corporations to solve climate change for us. A permanent end to rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels requires a permanent end to, or at least a drastic reduction of, the fossil fuel industry and our usage of fossil fuels. If we are acknowledging and tackling the threat that the fossil fuel industry poses, then we also need to acknowledge that in this struggle, corporations are an obstacle.
A system that promotes corporate interests and enables companies to be as powerful as Microsoft or Google, and that enables oil companies to have power even in our classrooms is not a system that will let us solve climate change. It is a system that promotes and perpetuates climate change, causing the summers to get hotter, the poorer countries to get poorer, and the time we have left before our planet becomes unlivable shorter.