A new study released by the United Nations has uncovered the world's biggest polluters. These corporations contribute to climate change by burning fossil fuels. This is in addition to the damage caused by air and water pollution. The report identifies the top 100 companies and how they contribute to the world's carbon footprint.
The list is broken down into four categories: transport, agriculture, air and water. Transport emissions account for one-fifth of global CO2 emissions. Those emitted from aviation are significantly more than from road travel. Agriculture is also a significant contributor to greenhouse gases, and the report estimates that agricultural greenhouse gas emissions will cause temperatures to rise above 2degC.
Oil and gas companies are the biggest contributors to pollution worldwide. The US is the second largest emitter in the world. However, the largest source of emissions is from the transportation industry. For example, the average passenger vehicle produces 4.6 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. In 2010, the number of flights increased by 40%.
Air pollution and water pollution are the two main sources of contamination. They can cause serious illnesses, medical conditions, and even death. According to the World Health Organization, there are 500,000 diarrheal deaths every year. Other forms of pollution include light and noise pollution, which contribute to premature death by increasing heart disease.
In the US, the military has been identified as a major contributor to pollution. It is estimated that the US military's emissions amount to about 51 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent annually. That is more than most countries. If the US military stopped emitting that much, it would be the 47th-largest emitter in the world.
While the US is the largest polluter, the other countries are not far behind. The world's smallest country, Bhutan, is the only nation to have zero emissions. Denmark is considered the cleanest nation in the world and ranks highly in the areas of waste management, water treatment, and species protection.
Another large company that has faced serious legal issues is Pemex, a Mexican company. Its pollution is especially detrimental to the environment, as oil spills poison fish and birds. There have been over a dozen spills over the past five decades.
As part of its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, Shell is buying more carbon offsets each year. But the company has been accused of greenwashing, and it has been sued by six NGO groups. One of the groups, Friends of the Earth, has labelled it the most polluting oil company in the world.
Another oil and gas giant is ExxonMobil. Although it is a direct descendent of Standard Oil, it has a more narrow focus, focusing on natural gas. At least 12% of the world's natural gas is produced by the company. Despite its size, the company has been called the leader of climate change denial.
The world's ten most polluting companies are all oil and gas majors. Among them, Saudi Arabian oil company (also known as Saudi Aramco), BHP Billiten, and Shell have the highest market cap.