Author: Michael

How I Applied a Bottom-Up Approach to Carbon Emissions Data

How I Applied a Bottom-Up Approach to Carbon Emissions Data

Op-Ed: Here’s how companies can strong-arm their suppliers into cutting carbon emissions

When I started thinking about how the carbon emissions of major American corporations might be cut, I wanted to research it. But my first reaction was to do the math. As someone who works for the government and has been in federal government many years, I always get nervous when I get to crunch the numbers and see the scope of what the government does in terms of climate change. In fact, a part of my job involves calculating these figures for policymakers.

As a result, I became interested in carbon emissions data first through a study called EconSpy, and second through a series of reports from the Environmental Protection Agency.

In EconSpy, I used a combination of the EPA’s online database and my own research to produce a list of the nation’s top carbon-emitting corporations, the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases, and the top 20. From there, I used Excel to crunch the numbers to determine how much of each company’s emissions came from the business that made the biggest contribution to that company’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The results were discouraging: the top 1 percent of emissions-dividing firms controlled about 25 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and the top 10 corporations controlled about one quarter.

With this in mind, I began to think about a new way of looking at the issue — a bottom-up approach. My new way of thinking about the carbon emissions of major American corporations came through a conversation with Michael Greenstone, an energy policy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Greenstone, the chair of the Union of Concerned Scientists Climate Strategy Working Group and the author of “The Case for Fossil Fuel Subsidies,” has done extensive research on the carbon emissions of America’s largest companies and the companies around them.

I first visited Greenstone on the Union of Concerned Scientists web site where he was talking about fossil fuel subsidies and climate change. After he talked, I asked him what he thought of my bottom-up approach because it was something that I had been thinking about.


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