Climate Change’s Moral Storm

Global carbon emissions contributing to climate change (CC) are extremely unevenly distributed. Between 1751 and 2010, 63% of industrial carbon dioxide and methane emissions were produced by 90 companies, 83 of which produce oil, gas and coal (Goldenberg, 2013). However, the burden of CC resulting from these emissions is unlikely to be placed on these companies; but the socially, economically and culturally marginalised instead (Goldenberg, 2014). This has lead to claims these companies must further consider their ethical responsibilities while involving themselves in the CC debate.

Corporations could be encouraged to help those who will bear the brunt of the effects, similar to how the US will double public grants to vulnerable countries by 2020 to aid adaptation to CC (Clark & Stothard, 2015). However, getting companies to engage in this when it is not beneficial to profits may be very difficult. To override some of this ethical responsibility, top emitting companies are attempting to brand themselves as “‘clean” and “green” to create a facade of “ethical consumption” (Carolinianweb, 2016). While in reality, they are not dealing with their emissions which can be seen as misleading; depreciating integrity and reputation.

Another ethical issue surrounding these top 90 companies is funding of CC denial groups. For example, emails from an Exxon climate expert show the companies acknowledgement of CC and their contributions to it date back to 1981, 7 years prior to identification of the issue by other oil companies and the general public. However, instead of passing on this knowledge and working to resolve the issue as soon as possible, Greenpeace claim Exxon spent >$30 million on researchers promoting scepticism (Goldenberg, 2015). I believe these ethical issues should be discussed further in the CC domain, while engaging corporations in the debate and ensuring transparency from all parties, to promote successful decarbonisation.




Carolinianweb. (2016, March 23). The threat of corporations and climate change. Retrieved November 5, 2016, from

Clark, P., & Stothard, M. (2015, December). COP21: US boosts funds for poor countries fighting climate change. . Retrieved from

Goldenberg, S. (2013, November 21). Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Goldenberg, S. (2014, March 31). Climate change: The poor will suffer most. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Goldenberg, S. (2015, July 9). Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Featured Image:    Vivas. 13 accurate and thought-provoking political drawings about climate change. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from


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