Column: Corporations need to be held responsible for climate change

Low regulations on major corporations are what’s causing the rapid climate change we’re seeing, and we need to take political action.

Madi Baughman is a sophomore journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that climate change will become gravely serious by 2030 if we don’t do something to stop it. The 2030 “doomsday” date has been around for decades, though. Scientists have known that our planet is suffering, and have tried to warn us for years. Now that the date is creeping closer and closer, people are starting to pay attention.

Cue the self-blaming cycle, where we all try to become environmentally active. However, even if this is something we all pitched in toward, it wouldn’t change much. Why is that?

One word: corporations.

Yes, being an environmentally conscious person is important, and we should all definitely work to have a better planet, but the average person isn’t the one making major contributions to rapid climate change.

This is still true even when you add the population together — it’s the result of how few environmental regulations we put on corporations.

A UN report from 2010 estimated that corporations cause $2.2 trillion in environmental damage every year.

Studies by Richard Heede, the principal of climate mitigation services, have shown that only 90 companies have caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions. Yet, we still blame individual citizens who do a lot less damage to the environment. Companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell are some of the leading causes of carbon emissions in the environment, and they aren’t being held accountable.

This self-blaming system isn’t getting us anywhere. Holding ourselves accountable is great, and we should continue to do that, but we need to hold our elected officials accountable, too. President Donald Trump himself claimed that he is not one of the “believers” that climate change is a pressing issue, even though science has proven that it exists.

It may not seem like that big of a deal, but besides the damage it will do to the planet, it will have grave effects on our health, as well. Increases in disease-carrying insects, contaminated water sources, dangerous bacterial infections, increases in mental health issues and increases in Type 2 diabetes are some, but not all, of the issues we could be facing very soon.

It also precipitates the risk of wildfires, flooding, extreme drought and food shortages. The outlook for the planet is bleak, and if we want to do something about it, we have to act fast. The wildfires in California prove that things are getting severe already — just one of them took out a whole neighborhood of 27,000 people.

The planet should not be sacrificed at the expense of big business, just so the rich can get richer. We need to be informed voters — not naive people who blindly follow a person or party. This way we know what the consequences of our actions are.

We need to read up on policies that support the reduction of harmful emissions, such as the Clean Power Plan, which puts regulations on power plants to stop them from dumping unlimited amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

We also need to be more involved, which is the most important part of the process. Even if we are informed, nothing will change unless we take action to stop the forces behind climate change.

Holding corporations accountable is the biggest thing we can do. If we really want to make a difference about climate change, we have to take it straight to the government, so that we can prevent the climate from changing any more than it already has.

We can do this through protesting, petitioning and, most importantly, voting for candidates who are on the side of science and factual information, not on the side of the corporations who are contributing to climate change.

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