Many people are probably already saving the planet one reusable straw at a time. But here’s the harsh truth when it comes to climate change: Our eco-friendly efforts are like bringing a squirt gun to a wildfire. The real culprits? Fossil fuel companies. They’re the supervillains behind the chaos and destruction we’re seeing on our planet.

Coal Fired Power Plant in the Rhenish Lignite Mining Area. © Bernd Lauter / Greenpeace
Coal fired power station Niederaussem near Bergheim in the Rhenish lignite mining area. Steam coming out of cooling towers. Houses and fields in the foreground.Coal fired power plant owned by RWE Power AG.
© Bernd Lauter / Greenpeace

First things first: what are fossil fuels? Fossil fuels, those ancient energy relics forged from the remains of long-gone creatures that roamed the Earth eons ago, are at the heart of our climate dilemma. These carbon-rich deposits, extracted and burned to supply the world’s energy, are far from renewable. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that 89% of global CO2 emissions came from fossil fuels and industry. Yet, their influence extends beyond energy alone. They’re the hidden players behind everything from plastics to a myriad of everyday products. These resources come in three primary forms: coal, oil, and gas.

Let’s strip away the greenwashing and dive into four reasons why these fossil fuel companies are the true “bad guys” that cause climate change.

  1. Massive Carbon Emissions

Fossil fuel companies are like factories of destruction, spewing out massive amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that worsen climate change. When they burn coal, oil, and natural gas, they’re turning our planet into a pressure cooker. The average global temperature has already increased by 1°C. Warming above 1.5°C can result in rising sea levels, more unpredictable weather, extreme weather events such as super typhoons, flooding, drought, and heat waves, biodiversity loss, as well as food scarcity, health crisis, and poverty for millions of people around the world.

Activists documenting the oil drilling operations of the Austrian OMV in the Arctic Ocean near Bear Island in winter are protesting this irresponsible venture with banners. © Mitja  Kobal / Greenpeace
  1. Habitat Destruction and Deforestation

Picture this: to get to their precious fossil fuels, they’re not just bulldozing through forests; they’re even extending their reach to the oceans with offshore drilling projects. It’s like they’ve got an all-access pass to environmental destruction. Forests? Destroyed. Wildlife? Displaced. Marine biodiversity? Devastated. It’s akin to tearing out pages from our history books, erasing pieces of our natural heritage both on land and beneath the waves, and setting the stage for an ecological disaster.

Activists with Greenpeace, Oil & Gas Action Network and Regenerating Paradise gather at a burn scar site in the North Complex Fire urging Governor Newsom to take immediate action to phase out fossil fuels and end neighborhood drilling. The North Complex Fire was a massive wildfire complex that burned in the Plumas National Forest in Northern California in the counties of Plumas and Butte. © Andri Tambunan / Greenpeace
  1. Influence Over Government Policies

Ever wonder why we’re not leaping into clean, safe, renewable energy solutions? It’s because these corporate villains have politicians on speed dial, and spending millions of dollars on lobbying to control, delay, or block binding climate-motivated policy. This means our solar-powered dreams get buried under a sea of oil in favor of a future succumbing to the impacts of climate change.

Wind Farm in Fukushima. © Guillaume Bression / Greenpeace
At one of the biggest wind farms in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, 33 wind turbines are producing electricity equivalent to power demands of 35,000 households’ demands per year. Fukushima prefecture has declared to become 100% renewable by 2040. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Feed in Tariff scheme was installed in 2012. Since then renewable energy, mainly photovoltaic, has grown massively however, wind capacity hasn’t grown so much and remains 3GW in 2015.
© Guillaume Bression / Greenpeace
  1. Marketing and Greenwashing

Fossil fuel companies are like the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They’ll flash seemingly green taglines and promises, talking about “clean” energy, and promote tiny, feel-good gestures like turning off a light bulb. But here’s the trick: they’re distracting us from the wrecking ball they’re swinging at our planet. It’s a con game that makes you think you’re the problem, not them.

A giant balloon bearing the message “Gas is green… washing” in the shape of planet Earth, flies over the parking area reserved for Gastech delegates attending the fair. © Greenpeace / Lorenzo Moscia

While our reusable water bottle and eco-conscious fashion choices are cool, it’s time to unmask the real villains behind climate change. Let’s call out these fossil fuel giants for what they are: Earth’s arch-nemeses. Even the National Inquiry on Climate Change by the Commission on Human Rights cites the role of fossil fuel companies in exacerbating climate change. By holding them accountable, pushing for renewable energy, and demanding climate justice, we can turn the tide in the battle for our future and our planet. 

It’s time to demand climate justice!