Scoping out scope 3 emissions

Ten was a puzzle, what should Johnny do?


It’s the 80th birthday of Carole King, the singer whose Really Rosie (lyrics by Maurice Sendak) is indelibly imprinted in my memories thanks to my second-grade music teacher. I got to play Pierre, the Melania Trump character in our school production:

I think we can get out of the lion’s stomach, but we do have to decide that we care.

One of the great obfuscatory euphemisms in climate policy these days is “Scope 3 emissions,” the greenhouse pollution that is, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain.”

Okay, that doesn’t explain much. But importantly that means that the greenhouse pollution from burning oil and gas sold by ExxonMobil or other fossil-fuel companies are “Scope 3” (from their perspective).1 And guess what—Big Oil doesn’t want to be held responsible for how their products cause global warming.

Yesterday’s House Oversight hearing dug into this very question, noting that Big Oil’s so-called net-zero climate pledges assiduously exclude Scope 3. Instead, their pledges merely mean they’re working on making their oil rigs and fracking wells more energy efficient. Yes, solar-powered fracking is a thing. As Mark van Baal testified,

“ExxonMobil is really like a tobacco company, which pledges to prohibit smoking in their factories, while continuing to produce and sell cigarettes.”

Something that also falls into “the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain” is Wall Street investment into and insurance for the fossil-fuel industry. And banks don’t want to be held responsible for how their investments cause global warming.

Bloomberg’s Robert Schmidt and Benjamin Bain report that this is now a matter of contentious debate within the Securities Exchange Commission, which is now developing greenhouse pollution reporting standards under Chair Gary Gensler. Gensler doesn’t want to include Scope 3 pollution in the climate rule, because he thinks the Supreme Court would strike it down. The commission’s other Democrats, Allison Herren Lee and Caroline Crenshaw, think the rule needs to be strong enough to actually make a difference in the climate crisis.


Two male golden pheasants in the Lishan Nature Reserve in Shanxi Province Credit: Qiang Guo/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A federal appeals court has tossed the effort by ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy looking to keep a Boulder climate liability case in federal court—as discussed in a previous Hill Heat, the case was filed in 2018, years before this winter's horrific fire.

Andrew Wheeler, the Trump EPA administrator-cum-coal lobbyist nominated by GOP Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to be Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, has been rejected by Virginia Senate Democrats.

Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, is to be appointed the special international climate protection envoy by the German Foreign Minister.

Now it’s time for some chicken soup with rice.

Hearings on the Hill:

I’m not only thinking of Carole King today, though! Happy birthday, mom.@climatebrad

1. Scope 1 emissions is the greenhouse pollution caused by directly burning the fuel; Scope 2 is greenhouse pollution associated with purchased energy or electricity.

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