The true cost of climate pollution? 44% of corporate profits.

Source: Grist


What if companies had to pay for the problems their carbon emissions cause? Their profits would plunge, according to new estimates, possibly wiping out trillions in financial gains.

These results, spelled out in a recent study in the journal Science, are based on analysis of almost 15,000 publicly-traded companies around the world. To calculate how much each ton of carbon emissions ends up costing society, economists used the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate of $190 per ton. 

For all of those companies combined, the damage would run into the trillions of dollars, Christian Leuz, a coauthor of the study and a business professor at the University of Chicago, told the Associated Press. The researchers only included direct emissions from companies, not “downstream” emissions related to the products they sell. (So emissions from the operations needed to build cars would count; the pollution that comes out of its tailpipe wouldn’t.) 

They found that the cost of damage surpassed profits for highly polluting industries, including energy, utilities, transportation, and materials manufacturers — a group that accounted for 89 percent of the total. Researchers didn’t name any specific companies. 

Read more: The true cost of climate pollution? 44% of corporate profits.