Emissions Change Starts at Top
Some of the largest companies in America are also those leading the charge toward a more sustainable future, according to a joint report by Calvert Research, WWF, CDP, and Ceres.
Today’s infographic comes from Fortune’s Nicolas Rapp, who used this data to visualize the CO2 emissions saved by 56 of the Fortune top 100 firms. In the graphic, each company’s CO2 savings are represented by an equivalent mass of coal not burned.
Big Companies, Big Goals
Nearly half (49%) of Fortune 500 companies in 2016 set targets to increase renewable energy sourcing, improve energy efficiency, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
Over the course of the year, 190 of these companies managed to report a total $3.7 billion in cost savings thanks to some 80,000 emissions-reducing projects. That’s roughly equal to the impact of taking 45 coal-fired power plants offline.
Computing Giants Using Power Responsibly
Apple has done more than any other company on the Fortune list to reduce their environmental impact, saving the equivalent emissions of 35 billion pounds of burned coal. This alone would be enough to meet the year-round power consumption needs of 9.7 million homes – more than in the entirety of New York state.
What types of initiatives are they implementing to make these kinds of efforts?
According to their 2017 Sustainability Report, 96% of Apple’s electricity comes from renewable sources, including hydroelectric and solar. The company also recently issued $1 billion in “green bonds”, the proceeds of which are to be used in eco-friendly projects. This is in addition to an existing issue of $1.5 billion of green bonds from 2016.
On the other hand, Microsoft is focused on energy efficiency, with the bulk of its work going towards improving the efficiency of data centers and buildings. As of 2016, roughly 44% of the electricity used by Microsoft data centers originates from wind, solar, and hydro energy sources.
Solar Power Shines for Big Box Retailers
Walmart, the largest brick and mortar retailer in the U.S., is also one of the biggest corporate users of solar power in the country. In 2005, Walmart’s former CEO, Lee Scott, set goals for the company’s store network to be powered entirely with renewable energy.
Though they have not met this goal yet, Walmart’s adoption of solar has reduced its energy costs per square foot of retail floor space by 9% chainwide. Other companies with large installations of onsite solar panels include Prologis, Apple, Costco, Kohl’s, and IKEA.
Are Clear Skies Ahead?
With the impending review of the Clean Power Plan’s role in American energy policy, the onus on large and powerful corporations to minimize their environmental impact is now greater than ever. Though we can already see the massive scale on which these firms have been able to improve their carbon footprints, even the equivalent of 35 billion pounds of burned coal is just the tip of the iceberg.
Charted: The Safest and Deadliest Energy Sources
What are the safest energy sources? This graphic shows both GHG emissions and accidental deaths caused by different energy sources.
Charted: The Safest and Deadliest Energy Sources
Recent conversations about climate change, emissions, and health have put a spotlight on the world’s energy sources.
As of 2021, nearly 90% of global CO₂ emissions came from fossil fuels. But energy production doesn’t just lead to carbon emissions, it can also cause accidents and air pollution that has a significant toll on human life.
This graphic by Ruben Mathisen uses data from Our World in Data to help visualize exactly how safe or deadly these energy sources are.
Fossil Fuels are the Highest Emitters
All energy sources today produce greenhouse gases either directly or indirectly. However, the top three GHG-emitting energy sources are all fossil fuels.
|Energy||GHG Emissions (CO₂e/gigawatt-hour)|
|Natural Gas||490 tonnes|
Coal produces 820 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent (CO₂e) per gigawatt-hour. Not far behind is oil, which produces 720 tonnes CO₂e per gigawatt-hour. Meanwhile, natural gas produces 490 tonnes of CO₂e per gigawatt-hour.
These three sources contribute to over 60% of the world’s energy production.
Generating energy at a massive scale can have other side effects, like air pollution or accidents that take human lives.
|Energy Sources||Death rate (deaths/terawatt-hour)|
According to Our World in Data, air pollution and accidents from mining and burning coal fuels account for around 25 deaths per terawatt-hour of electricity—roughly the amount consumed by about 150,000 EU citizens in one year. The same measurement sees oil responsible for 18 annual deaths, and natural gas causing three annual deaths.
Meanwhile, hydropower, which is the most widely used renewable energy source, causes one annual death per 150,000 people. The safest energy sources by far are wind, solar, and nuclear energy at fewer than 0.1 annual deaths per terawatt-hour.
Nuclear energy, because of the sheer volume of electricity generated and low amount of associated deaths, is one of the world’s safest energy sources, despite common perceptions.
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