The window to reduce carbon emissions in order to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change is getting smaller by the day. It’s such an obvious, extinction-level problem that even most oil companies have been at least saying the right things and committing to a reduction in oil extraction and dirty-burning fuels. Exxon Mobil, however, appears to be taking the opposite approach. According to internal documents obtained by Bloomberg, the oil giant plans to increase its annual emissions by as much as 17 percent over the next five years, adding 21 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year.
Exxon's apparent planned ramp-up of carbon emissions is part of a $210 billion investment strategy that the company put into place in 2018, and it's really only a fraction of the damage to the planet that the company will be responsible for. The projected 21 million metric tons of new carbon emissions account only for direct operations, which include things like drilling for oil and extracting and transporting the fuel. Bloomberg estimates that the emissions from these efforts account for only about one-fifth of the company's overall carbon footprint, with the majority coming from consumers burning the fuels. It is estimated that the company will actually be responsible for closer to 100 million tons of additional carbon emissions each year when fuel use is accounted for.
The result of all those new emissions is the equivalent of plopping an entirely new, developed nation on the planet. Exxon Mobil, Bloomberg calculated, will be responsible for emissions levels that are similar to the entire country of Greece. The company would produce just as much greenhouse gas if it built and powered 26 coal-fired power plants. Put simply, Exxon Mobile is adding a whole heap of new emissions at a time when it should be attempting to shrink its overall carbon footprint.
Exxon Mobil's decision to ramp up its carbon emissions comes at a time when other major energy conglomerates are preparing for a carbon-free future. Earlier this year, BP promised and eventually delivered a plan to reach carbon neutral status by the year 2050. The company, which is the fifth-largest producer of oil in the world, claims to already be pursuing this path, with massive investments planned in low carbon alternatives this decade. Shell, another one of the world's largest oil suppliers, has also set a target date of 2050 to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
To be fair, Exxon never even bothered to pretend like this wasn't its plan all along. The company has showed little interest in making promises to reduce its carbon footprint and has never set a date to reach carbon-neutral status. It appears that the company's M.O. is just to continue operating as if the planet isn't on fire.
Mic reached out to Exxon Mobil for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication. In a statement to Bloomberg, Exxon Mobil claimed that the documents were just an "early assessment that does not include additional mitigation and abatement measures that would have been considered as the next step in the process." The company also claimed the documents illustrate how it has been "successful in mitigating emissions in the past." However, Bloomberg noted that the new emissions significantly outweigh any of the company's planned mitigation efforts. It appears as the world tries to ween itself off oil, Exxon Mobil is planning to pick up the slack.