New CDP Report Attacking U.S. Oil & Gas Industry is DOA, Thanks to Poor Methodology

An environmental activist group called CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, is out with a new report claiming that major oil companies are supposedly responsible for the vast majority of historic greenhouse gas emissions.

But a deeper look into the report shows that CDP is simply repackaging old data from one of the groups behind the #ExxonKnew campaign and distorting it to make outrageous claims.

It will come as no surprise that CDP is a project of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and has received $125,000 in grants from the Rockefeller Brother’s Fund since 2015. Of course, the Rockefellers have been the principle funders of nearly every aspect of the #ExxonKnew campaign.

The report admits from the outset,

“The Carbon Majors Database in its original form was completed in 2013 by Richard Heede, Director of the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI).”

In other words, the report relies on the same “Carbon Majors Database,” originally compiled by the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI) – another Rockefeller funded organization. CAI was the group that partnered with the Union of Concerned Scientists to organize the infamous 2012 La Jolla Conference that laid out the roadmap for the eventual #ExxonKnew campaign, and Richard Heede was one of the activists who took the lead in “manipulat[ing] academic research to smear Exxon.” Heede and CAI are acknowledged as “external partners” on the report.

Against that backdrop, the report attempts to attribute greenhouse gas emissions to specific companies going back to 1751, centuries before scientists even hypothesized that burning fossil fuels could impact the Earth’s climate (not to mention ages before companies were required to report emissions).

In its press release, CDP makes a point of singling out big, publicly listed energy companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP as being most culpable for the lion’s share of emissions since 1988 – the year “human-induced climate change was officially recognized,” apparently. But the data in the report show that only 32 percent of emissions since 1988 can be traced to public companies. On the other hand, 59 percent of emissions came from state-owned entities like Russia’s Gazprom and National Iranian Oil, according to CDP data. For some reason, CDP doesn’t spend much time talking about these guys.

Further, the report relies heavily on Scope 3 emissions to reach the high figures included in the document.  To provide some background, Scope 1 emissions constitute the companies’ direct emissions, while Scope 2 emissions comprise the indirect GHG emitted during the generation of the electricity that powers a company’s operation. Scope 3 emissions are emissions from the use of sold products.  For instance, if you fill your tank up with BP gasoline, the emissions from you driving count as a Scope 3 emissions for BP (notwithstanding the fact that BP probably doesn’t even own that particular gas station). Rule of thumb on reports like this is, if you see Scope 3 numbers being thrown around, you’ve basically reached the point where you’re essentially just making stuff up.

The other problem is that Scope 3 emissions are clearly not under the company’s control, and are also nearly impossible to account for. In fact, according to EPA guidance:

“According to GHG inventory guidance, quantification of scope 1 and 2 emissions are mandatory for organizations reporting and disclosing GHG emissions, while scope 3 emissions quantification is not required.”

By CDP’s own admission, most of the emissions the group assigns to companies are based purely on its own speculation. CDP writes: “Scope 1 emissions of non-responders and all of Scope 3 emissions are estimated.” (emphasis added)

CDP goes on to make some alarming predictions about future global greenhouse gas emissions. The report claims,

“If the trend in fossil fuel extraction continues over the next 28 years as it has over the previous 28, then global average temperatures would be on course to rise around 4oC above preindustrial levels by the end of the century. This would entail substantial species extinction, large risks of regional and global food scarcity, and could cross multiple tipping points in the Earth’s climate system, leading to even more severe consequences.”

But let’s slow down for a second and look at whether the scenario it describes is even realistic. As the International Energy Agency reported earlier this year:

“Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew signaling a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity. This was the result of growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.”

So the trend in fossil fuel emissions over the next 28 years is highly unlikely to match the previous 28 years. In fact, emissions are likely to continue as more of our country’s (and the world’s) electricity is generated from natural gas.

And the four degrees of warming of which CDP warns in its report is at the extreme end of what the United Nations’s International Panel on Climate Change projects in its worst case scenario. As the Washington Post wrote last week about another exaggerated projection of climate change:

“The ‘likely’ warming expectation, for the worst warming scenario presented by the IPCC in 2013, is 2.6 to 4.8 degrees Celsius for the 2081-2100 period. So in effect, the story is often going beyond what is deemed ‘likely’ even in this worst scenario.” (emphasis added)

This report comes just after 350.org engaged in a publicity stunt to convince government scientists to name a newly formed iceberg in Antarctica after #ExxonKnew, and were admonished by actual climate scientists for it. As Martin O’Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist put it, “we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change.”  Helen Amanda Fricker of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said, “we do not need to press the panic button for Larsen C. Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia.”

Like all their stunts, this Rockefeller-funded report is neither new nor accurate. It’s just another flop in an ongoing and increasingly comical campaign to resuscitate their floundering #ExxonKnew crusade.

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