The carbon accountant

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Science  26 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6302, pp. 858-861
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6302.858

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By piecing together the annual production of every major fossil fuel company since the Industrial Revolution, geographer Richard Heede has shown that nearly two-thirds of the major industrial greenhouse gas emissions have originated in just 90 companies around the world, which either emitted the carbon themselves or supplied carbon ultimately released by consumers and industry. The study provoked controversy when it was first published, with some complaining that it unfairly held the fossil fuel industry responsible for the lifestyle choices made by billions of consumers. Others, however, saw it as a turning point in the debate about apportioning responsibility for climate change. Now, Heede's carbon accounting is opening a new chapter in climate change litigation and policy, helping equip plaintiffs who believe they have suffered damages from climate change to claim compensation.