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Fossil Fuel Industry Profits Soar Amid Record-breaking Climate-related Losses

The Urgent Need for Accountability and Transition to Renewable Energy

The five biggest fossil fuel companies, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, and Total Energies, revealed earnings reports of nearly $200 billion in profits last year. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), oil and gas industry profits rose to $4 trillion in 2022. This is a major jump when compared to an average of $1.5 trillion in recent years. Meanwhile, the world experienced record-breaking losses due to extreme weather events. Climate change has been identified as the primary cause of these extreme weather events, and fossil fuel companies play the most significant role in causing climate change.

The increasing field of attribution science helps trace specific extreme events back to the source of heat-trapping emissions and allows researchers to show how companies worsen climate change. Event attribution research can link the source of the changes caused by these companies' products to quantifiable changes in climate. Unfortunately, the earnings of these companies come at the expense of global health and safety, as people worldwide bear losses of hundreds of billions of dollars each year due to the effects of climate change.

Many people's lives are impacted, and they incur incalculable costs to their loved ones. Attribution science is one of the many mechanisms to hold bad actors accountable for the damage they cause. Some event attribution research is available for the 18 US disasters that caused over $1 billion in damage in 2022, and more research is ongoing.

These companies' fossil fuel products do not just have consequences in the United States but rather have global implications. In 2022, several devastating climate-related incidents took place worldwide. Among the most severe was the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, which affected 33 million people, caused 1700 fatalities, and incurred up to $40 billion in damages. The people affected by this tragedy are still grappling with its aftermath, compounded by the inadequacy of the relief efforts.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has announced that it will blacklist any renewable energy company that does not meet its project deadlines for 3 to 5 years from receiving government contracts. The Pakistani government announced plans to quadruple its domestic coal-fired capacity in a move away from gas. While natural gas is certainly not good for the environment, it produces half the carbon dioxide (CO2) that coal does. Therefore, this transition will result in a much more significant spike in CO2 emissions in Pakistan.

The fossil fuel industry continues to reap enormous profits, despite the devastating impacts of climate change on people's lives and the environment. While attribution science offers a promising way to hold these companies accountable for the damage they cause, much more must be done to address the root cause of the problem. The recent decisions by the Indian and Pakistani governments highlight the urgent need for a transition to renewable energy sources. Still, governments must manage such an energy transition carefully to avoid unintended consequences such as the increased use of coal-fired power. The challenge ahead is enormous, but the stakes could not be higher. Our planet's future and millions of people's well-being depend on our ability to act decisively and collectively to address the climate crisis.


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