Changing light bulbs won't solve global warming -- but shutting down these 8 corporations will make a dent
Planet Earth (shutterstock)

Who’s making climate change worse? Your decision between plastic and paper, or even a SUV and a Tesla, is dwarfed by the actions of these eight corporations:

  1. A hashtag, a movement, a serial liar stalling solutions in the interest of protecting its gargantuan profits: Exxon. As meticulously documented by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, Exxon had a solid scientific research division devoted to global warming in the 1970s, producing a proto-hockey stick graph. Global warming would make it 30 to 50 percent cheaper to drill in the Arctic - but side effects might be catastrophic. When faced with that knowledge, Exxon did the only logical thing: shut down the division and pour its money into public relations instead. If this sounds like the Big Tobacco playbook, take heart: attorneys general from New York to California are investigating whether Exxon broke the law. Keep up with #ExxonKnew news on twitter.
  1. Why California - and the rest of us - can’t have nice things: Chevron. Remember when the Golden State passed cutting edge laws that the rest of the country would take up in due time? These days, climate progress is being blocked by a group of state legislators who call themselves moderate Democrats, and they’re all backed by Chevron. The oil company just spent a cool million bucks to support one of its tame legislators, Cheryl Brown, who last year opposed SB 350 until it was watered down for the benefit of Chevron. (Luckily for climate activists, Brown has a climate-friendly challenger, Eloise Reyes.)
  1. Wal-Mart: the world’s largest purveyor of cheap plastic junk made in coal-fired plants in China and shipped across the Pacific Ocean to the US, where most of it is destined to end up in landfills. A solar panel greenwashing a rooftop doesn’t begin to make up for the carbon footprint of this behemoth. It’s slowly getting more efficient...but its climate goals aren’t ambitious enough to measure up to the climate challenge. In that way, Wal-Mart reflects the world it litters: as author Bill McKibben has noted, the Paris agreement isn’t ambitious enough to get the world to the stated goal of 1.5 degrees.
  1. When drillers, frackers, and miners need access to financing they turn to JP Morgan Chase, the world’s biggest financier of coal. Not to mention Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, and their ilk, all of whom lend to fossil fuel companies. When oil prices crash, as they did earlier this year, the banks cringe. No wonder that some activists have devised a strategy to cut the financing.
  1. Half of Berkshire Hathaway. Warren Buffett’s conglomerate makes climate activists cheer on news that Mid American Energy invests $2 billion in Iowa wind. However, the same conglomerate owns railways that haul enough coal to make up ten percent of America’s electricity. Is he friend or foe? Buffett has decided that climate change doesn’t pose a big enough risk to his businesses for him to care.
  1. The world’s largest privately held coal company may have declared bankruptcy this month, but the evil done by Peabody Coal lingers on. From miners with bad lungs and worse health benefits, to abandoned mines littering the West, to carbon dioxide lingering in the air for 800 years, Peabody will haunt our atmosphere and our politics for centuries. And, thanks to bankruptcy debtor-in-possession laws, it’ll keep doing business as usual. Maybe at least the bankruptcy judge can stop it from funding denier think tanks.
  1. It’s hard to separate out Koch Industries’ petroleum business from the two billionaire brothers who have spent decades building the Kochtopus - the vast spiderweb of politicians, think tanks, lobbyists, front groups, and corruption that aims to stop meaningful progress on climate change. It’s so much work to track the network that one could write a book - and Jane Mayer has written the dark story of Dark Money.
  1. Donald Trump, the brand, is fueling the rise to power of Donald Trump, the politician. Yes, the Donald Trump who once tweeted that global warming is a plot invented by the Chinese to make American manufacturing less competitive. Yes, he’s since called that tweet a joke. Yes, he still thinks that climate change is a hoax. Yes, he might become President.