Climate change has become an undeniable reality, as we witness global heat records tumbling and weather patterns becoming increasingly erratic. The scientific community has long pointed out that we need to phase out the use of fossil fuels to avert catastrophic climate change. In such a scenario, it is alarming to hear that some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies are stealthily reneging on their climate pledges.

Amidst the hottest June on record and as the globe goes through what’s believed to be the most prolonged heatwave in history, top scientists continue to reiterate that transforming our energy system is the only possibility of saving ourselves. However, some oil giants are moving further away from their promises of rolling back emissions.

“The fossil fuel industry has massively profited from selling a dangerous product and now innocent people and governments across the globe are paying the price for their recklessness,” Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University who studies the oil industry, said.

BP said it would aim for a 20-30% reduction by 2030 instead of its initial goal of cutting down by 35%. ExxonMobil, too, withdrew funding for an algae project that was set to produce low-carbon fuel. Meanwhile, Shell announced it would not increase investments in renewable energy, despite earlier promises to decrease emissions.

Big Oil Climate Change

Climate-fueled extreme weather continued to persist throughout spring and summer. However, fossil fuel companies have shown no signs of wavering as they remain committed to their oil- and gas-oriented business models. Shell, for example, made a promise to reduce oil production by 20% by 2030. Yet, they claim to have already achieved this goal by selling off certain operations to another oil company, ultimately failing to effectively decrease emissions in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, BP has expanded its gas drilling efforts, and Exxon’s CEO, Darren Woods, recently announced plans to double the amount of oil extracted from its US shale holdings within the next five years.

Why is this important? Big Oil got us here by burning fossil fuels relentlessly for the past 150 years.

Heat Records Are Broken Around the Globe as Earth Warms, Fast

The rise in temperature has been staggering in the last few years. In 2019, Antarctica registered its hottest day on record of 18.3°C (64.9°F), and Australia had its warmest and driest year ever, leading to the worst bushfire season in the country’s history. Europe too had its hottest year last year where records were smashed in France, the Netherlands, and the UK. This shows how climate change is a global issue, and the effects of it can be felt by everyone, no matter where you live.

Big Oil Climate Change

One of the significant contributors to this problem is greenhouse gases. Man-made emissions like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, trap the heat in the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect which leads to global warming. Climate scientists have indicated that concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide have risen to levels not seen in 3 million years.

Another factor which contributes to this phenomenon is the El Niño effect. El Niño is a weather pattern that occurs every few years, characterized by warming sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. This results in extreme weather events worldwide, including droughts, floods, wildfires, and heatwaves. The 2015-2016 El Niño event was one of the strongest on record, and it led to a temperature spike in every corner of the Earth.

If we continue on this path, we’re going to see more heatwaves, droughts, and forest fires, which will cause huge damage to our infrastructure and ecosystems. Crops will suffer, and biodiversity will be put at risk. Not to mention, the human toll, with people dying due to heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses, could be catastrophic. It’s important to understand that this isn’t just a problem for future generations; this is a crisis that is happening now.

Big Oil Climate Change

The recent emissions rollbacks send a worrying message to other companies and governments, and it becomes easy to think that we won’t be able to reduce emissions without sustained progress being made in the private sector. While the energy giants are fantastic at making profits from the production of oil and gas, their continuation on climate pledges is bleak, and it becomes critical that we look elsewhere amid the climate crisis that has worsened.

As much as industry giants deserve scrutiny, governments should also take it upon themselves to make more significant strides. The Paris Climate Agreement is a landmark agreement to limit emissions, but on its own, it isn’t enough. Governments must implement policies that would see fossil fuels replaced as primary energy sources with sustainable alternatives. Beyond regulations that support sustainable alternatives, and that puts a stop to the practices of these companies, policies such as carbon pricing and withdrawal of subsidies must be put in place.

The climate crisis continues to worsen, and the time to act has never been more urgent. With oil giants quietly walking back on their climate pledges, the push towards sustainable alternatives is more critical than ever. We can’t afford to just rely on commitments from companies alone, but also need governments to do their fair share by implementing policies that support the transition towards sustainable energy sources. We all have a role to play in mitigating climate change, and the actions we take now will determine what the future holds for our planet. It’s time that we take bold actions to save our planet.