Fact CheckHealth

Is British Petroleum among the world’s worst polluters? 

Claim: British Petroleum is one of the worst polluters in the world.

Is British Petroleum among the world's worst polluters? 

Verdict: TRUE. As captured in various databases, British Petroleum (BP) is among the top global polluters.  

Full Text 

The conversation around climate change has been gaining momentum for decades, and that is not an accident. 

The guarantee that humans will dwell on safe earth is anchored on this subject because the impacts of human activities have, in several ways, continued to pose a big threat to safe existence on earth. 

These human activities have resulted in continuous increases in the earth’s temperature, largely based on the amount of GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emission, Methane emission, and several other pollutants.  

The resultant effect of these activities has manifested in global temperature rise and intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms and declining biodiversity.

However, the debate around the subject of climate change has experienced some heat recently. On Twitter, for example, it was a battle over whether climate change is a scam. During the debate, a Twitter user Dr Eli David (@DrEliDavid), argued that climate change was an idea that the British oil giant British Petroleum (BP) created to shift the blame of climate change from oil giants to individuals. The tweet generated over 18,000 engagements with mixed reactions. 

The account described British Petroleum as one of the world’s worst polluters. 

A contradicting comment by The Magnesium guy Scott  Henrie (@10mm_404) reads, “Why are you lying? China is the worst polluter in the world. (Real pollution).”

Although the claimant did not state the category that informed his claim, it would be too ambiguous to say any entity is the biggest polluter without considering how these statistics are categorised. 

For instance, besides companies’ categories, polluters can be by countries and industries or sectors, hence the need for verifying this claim to put things into the correct perspective. 

Verification 

First, we searched for news publications that point in this direction and found this November 2022 report by the BBC, which shows how the gas flaring activities of British Petroleum (BP) were posing a health hazard for the people of Rumaila.

We also found this October 2019 report by The Guardian titled “Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions.” BP is one of the top companies mentioned in this report. 

A further check on global data sources was conducted, and we found a 2019 report published by the Climate Accountability Institute, showing that between 1965 to 2017, BP was among the top 6 global polluters with about 34 billion tonnes of GHG emissions. 

Also, in its April 2023 publication, The Eco Experts confirmed BP among the top 9 most polluting companies.

According to a publication by Corporate Governance Institute in April 2023, BP was ranked in 6th position with about 34 billion tonnes of GHG emission. 

Below is a table and a chart for you to understand the publication. 

CompaniesGHG emission (Billion Tonnes)
Saudi Aramco59.3
Chevron43.4
Gazprom43.2
ExxonMobil41.9
National Iranian Oil Co35.7
BP34
Royal Dutch Shell32
Coal India23.1
Pemex22.7
Petróleos de Venezuela15.8
Petro China15.6
Peabody Energy15.4
ConocoPhillips15.2
Abu Dhabi National Oil Co13.9
Kuwait Petroleum Corp13.9
Iraq National Oil Co12.6
Total SA12.4
Sonatrach12.3
BHP Billiton9.8
Petrobras8.7
Published by Corporate Governance Institute April 2023
Table showing top global polluters by companies. Source: Corporate Governance Institute.
Is British Petroleum among the world's worst polluters? 
Chart showing top global polluters by companies.

We also checked a counterclaim in the comment section by The Magnesium Guy. Scott  Henrie says China is the worst polluter. 

Since British Petroleum (a company) is not in the same category as China (a country), we decided to look at the direction of polluters by country category. 

Polluters by countries

The United Nations Environment Programme released a report in November 2021 that details the level of pollution by countries, as shown below. 

CountriesGlobal % of GHG
China27.8
United States of America12.7
India7.3
Russian Fed.4.7
Japan2.6
Brazil2.5
Indonesia2.2
Islamic Rep. of Iran1.9
Germany1.8
Mexico1.6
UNEP as Published 9 Nov 2021
Table showing top global polluters by country. Source UNEP.
Is British Petroleum among the world's worst polluters? 
Chart showing top global polluters by country.

From the above data, it is clear that by country category of GHG emitters, China is the biggest polluter, as the counterclaim says. 

Conclusion 

The claim that British Petroleum is among the world’s worst polluters is true, based on its GreenHouse Gas emission quantity. According to the UNEP, we also found that China is the worst polluter by country, based on GHG emissions. 

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