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From Big Oil to Big Green

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From Big Oil to Big Green

Holding the Oil Industry to Account for the Climate Crisis

MIT Press,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

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Big Oil’s activities are threatening life on Earth, says Marco Grasso, and it’s time for the industry to take accountability and embrace its evolution.

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Big Oil must step up and take responsibility for the climate crisis threatening life on Earth today, argues political geography professor Marco Grasso. He urges the oil and gas industry to embrace decarbonization and make reparations, while making a moral case for climate justice. Grasso critiques Big Oil for denying the correlation between fossil fuels and climate change while it knowingly caused harm and garnered trillions in profits. It’s time to label fossil fuels a “harmful product,” such as tobacco or asbestos, he says, while urging Big Oil to embrace green energy.


Big Oil must take accountability for climate change and make amends.

Oil is the main global fuel and energy source that people use in consumer products, ranging from toothpaste to smartphones, medicines and even lip gloss. Global dependence on oil contributes to the rise of greenhouse gases, as fossil fuel combustion releases billions of tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. An increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases has triggered extreme weather and climate catastrophes, including droughts, floods, heat waves and melting glaciers, and fuels the extinction of one-sixth of the Earth’s species.

By deliberately stoking global demand for fossil fuels and denying their impacts, Big Oil plays a central role in creating an unsustainable carbon-dependent socioeconomic system. The oil industry spent 99.2% of its total energy budget investing in fossil fuels in 2019, and only 0.8% investing in carbon capture, storage and renewables. Solutions to the climate crisis require a collaborative, coordinated global effort between accountable governments and industry leaders, and require Big Oil to take ...

About the Author

Political geography professor with the University of Milano-Bicocca’s Department of Sociology and Social Research Marco Grasso is the global environment outlook expert (GEO) for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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