Who is to blame for climate change?


ne of the most frustrating things about the climate crisis is that the fact that earlier action could have prevented it. With every passing year of inaction, the emissions cuts needed to limit global warming to relatively safe levels grow steeper and steeper.

Many groups have been accused of being at blame for this ongoing lack of action, from fossil fuel companies and wealthy countries, to politiciansrich people and sometimes even all of us.

Others may feel it’s not useful to blame anyone. “If you want to engage with the non-converted and get them to want stronger climate action, blaming them is not going to be a very fruitful pathway,” says Glen Peters, research director of the Center for International Climate and Environment Research in Oslo.

Whether we label it blame or not, the question of who is responsible for the climate crisis is a necessary one. It will inevitably impact the solutions we propose to fix things.

But it’s also important to acknowledge that allocating emissions to someone – the extractors of fossil fuels, the manufacturers who make products using them, the governments who regulate these products, the consumers who buy them – does not necessarily mean saying they are responsible for them.

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For example, many people across the world lack access to a steady, clean electricity supply and instead use high-emission diesel generators to generate electricity. You can allocate these emissions to the people using the generators, but it is hard to say they are to blame for them.

“You’re just slicing through the system at one end of the supply chain versus the other,” says Julia Steinberger, professor of ecological economics at the University of Leeds. “That alone is not enough to allocate blame.” Read More

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