90 Companies Produce Two-Thirds of Global Carbon Emissions

November 21, 2013 Updated: November 21, 2013

New research suggests just 90 companies are responsible for 63 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from 1751 to 2010—most of them public companies producing oil, gas, or coal.

The report, published in the journal Climatic Change, says nine are government-run coal producers, 31 are state-owned, and 50 are investor-owned companies. The list includes big names like Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc., British Coal Corp.

“There are thousands of oil, gas, and coal producers in the world,” said the report author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado. “But the decisionmakers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two.”

Half of the total estimated emissions were produced in the last 25 years, according to the report, well after greenhouse gas emissions were linked to climate change.

Researchers Call for Policy Change

A handful of other studies have recently been published. Oxford University climate scientist Myles Allen’s study, published Thursday, says reducing carbon emissions is more urgent than previously thought. 

“I am hoping this message is getting through,” climate scientist Allen told NBC News. “I am worried it may not.”

Another recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed in September the world has already emitted more than half the carbon maximally possible to contain warming at 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The reports come as the United Nations is meeting in Warsaw for its convention on climate change—an ongoing discussion since 1992. 

The goal of the convention is to come to an agreement for emission reductions to be signed in Paris 2015 and to go into effect 2020. The meetings began Nov. 11 and will continue through Nov. 22.

Green groups walked out Thursday in protest and frustration with the lack of progress and ambition in negotiations.

Hoda Baraka of 350.org discussed the walkout with RTCC (Responding to Climate Change) at the convention, saying the lobbyists have made it “flagrantly obvious” the discussion would go nowhere. “The fossil fuel industry could very well be said to be the hosts [of the convention],” Baraka said.