Exposing More “Carbon Bombs” (and Their Bankers)

New data spotlight 422 fossil fuel projects — and story ideas

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg sits outside JP Morgan in London with protestors against fossil fuel financing. (Photo by Vuk Valcic via Getty Images)

New data published last week by Le Monde, the Guardian, and other news outlets, document 422 oil, gas, or coal production sites, whose potential greenhouse gas emissions would destroy any chance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The data is an excellent jumping off point for reporters around the world, at outlets big and small, national and local, to question government officials about their country’s “carbon bombs” and how they affect its climate ambitions.

The UN on Wednesday separately reported that some of the world’s “governments plan to produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 [degrees] C, and 69% more than would be consistent with 2 [degrees] C,” the temperature rise thresholds set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The New York Times reported that “In 2030, if current projections hold, the United States will drill for more oil and gas than at any point in its history. Russia and Saudi Arabia plan to do the same.”

This new “carbon bomb” reporting provides journalists with context for their stories about COP28 — which runs November 30 through December 12 — and fodder for follow-up reporting at home and after the summit. The fundamental question is: Will governments defuse these carbon bombs or allow the projects to proceed, despite their catastrophic climate implications?

China is responsible for the largest number of carbon bombs — 141 projects representing 28% of possible future emissions from these projects — followed by Russia (41) and the US (28). Sixty-one countries have greenlighted such projects; all, but North Korea, are signatories to the Paris Agreement. This new reporting follows up on a Guardian investigation published last year which was similarly a treasure trove of story ideas about fossil fuel projects on every continent.

The exposé in Le Monde and the Guardian is based on research by the French NGOs Data for Good and Éclaircies, which also identified financial institutions bankrolling the bombs. This is a critical area for journalists to explore; “follow the money” is usually a good idea for reporters. While few banks “directly finance carbon bombs,” notes Le Monde, “they massively support the 45 companies that operate them. In 2022, these carbon bomb developers received over $160 billion in financing, in the form of loans or bonds.”

JPMorgan Chase was the “single biggest financier,” the Guardian reported, followed by Citi and Bank of America. Three Chinese banks and three European banks, plus Wells Fargo, round out the top 10. Seven of these top 10 financiers are members of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance. In statements to the Guardian, bank spokespeople used words like “ambition,” “working to,” and “taking pragmatic steps” to describe their efforts to align their lending portfolios with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. But there’s a difference between words and actions, and that gap is ripe for journalists’ inquiry.

COP28 is a fast-approaching opportunity for journalists to ask government officials, fossil fuel executives, and the bankers behind them about these “carbon bombs.” Defenders of developing more oil, gas, and coal say they are protecting humanity from economic want, but the stratospheric advance of clean energy over the past decade demonstrates there are other ways to power our economies. Meanwhile, the science is clear: Hundreds of carbon bombs and preservation of a livable climate don’t mix.

From Us

COP28 webinar. CCNow and Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of NGOs researching mis- and disinformation in the climate space, are co-hosting a press briefing on disinformation narratives to watch out for at COP28, how media digests disinformation, and how it can impact negotiations. November 14. RSVP.

Noteworthy Stories

Hypocrisy. The world’s biggest fossil fuel producers are planning major oil, gas, and coal expansions, in direct contradiction of their climate policies and pledges, according to a new UN report. As a result, the world will produce double the limit of fossil fuels we can in order to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. By Damian Carrington at the Guardian…

Conflict of interest? Management consultancy McKinsey & Company, a key advisor to the COP28 climate talks, publicly advocates for climate action but behind the scenes is proposing energy policies that favor its big oil and gas clients, such as ExxonMobil, according to an AFP investigation. These proposals call for significant investment in fossil fuels, undermining a clean energy future. By Marlowe Hood at Agence France-Presse…

Oil lobbyists. Nearly 400 people linked to the fossil fuel industry attended COP27 last year, including many who flew under the radar, highlighting the industry’s undue influence over the climate talks. At COP28, the badging process is expected to be more transparent about attendees’ affiliations. By Seth Borenstein and Mary Katherine Wildeman at the Associated Press…

Community win. A coalition of Illinois landowners fought against a 1,300-mile proposed pipeline that would have transported carbon dioxide across five states — and won. Last month, Navigator, the energy company behind the controversial carbon capture project, canceled its pipeline plans. By Kristoffer Tigue at Inside Climate News…

Battery belt. An estimated 70,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in the last three years to build new EV batteries in the US. Most jobs are in the “battery belt,” which stretches from Michigan to Georgia. By Ben Tracy at CBS News…

Via Twitter (aka X)

To underscore the primary role of burning fossil fuels in driving global heating, WFLA-TV’s chief meteorologist and climate expert Jeff Berardelli provided viewers with a concise climate change primer.

New Reports

Record heat streak. Humanity just experienced the hottest 12-month streak on record, according to a new Climate Central attribution study. The average global temperature from November 2022 to October 2023 was 1.3 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

Middle East drought. Severe drought over the last three years in parts of Syria and Iraq, as well as Iran, were made worse by human-caused climate change, scientists at World Weather Attribution conclude in a new report. Climate change made the drought 25 times more likely in parts of Syria and Iraq and 16 times more likely in Iran.

Climate justice. A clear majority of Americans support climate justice policies, such as creating green spaces in low-income areas and communities of color and providing federal funding in these communities to make buildings more energy efficient, according to recent polling by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.


Asia-Pacific Climate Week. The Johor state and Malaysian government will host Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2023 to convene policymakers, practitioners, businesses, and civil society for a region-focused discussion on the first global stocktake, to be concluded at COP28. November 13-17. RSVP.

Reporting COP28. Climate Tracker is holding a panel discussion in Spanish to help journalists report on COP28 with a Latin America focus. November 16. RSVP.

COP geopolitics. Clean Energy Wire is hosting a panel discussion with experienced COP reporters to help attendees learn to report on the UN climate change summit. November 21. RSVP.

Methane leaks. SciLine is holding a press briefing on abandoned oil and gas wells across 27 US states, including where they are and the environmental benefits of capping them. November 30. RSVP.

Science editing. SciLine will host a one-hour Zoom course, designed for news editors and taught by former Washington Post science reporter Rick Weiss and neuroscientist Dr. Tori Espensen, on how to integrate science into journalism. December 6. RSVP.

Industry News

Green finance. Business journalist Alexandre Karghoo writes for the Reuters Institute about the imperative for journalists to cut through the fog of reporting subjects like green finance, where definitions remain murky. When it comes to covering emerging topics, “What we can and should tell our audience is that there is still a lack of clarity on these fundamental definitions. Simple as that.”

Jobs, Etc.

Jobs. KBIA in Columbia, Mo., is hiring an engagement editor. The Buffalo News in Buffalo, N.Y., is recruiting an environment and climate reporter.

Global South training. CNN Academy is holding a media training for young journalists across the Global South who are interested in reporting on the climate crisis in their home countries. Apply by November 15.

Fellowships. The Pulitzer Center is accepting applications for its Rainforest Investigations Network reporting fellowships for experienced investigative journalists who have covered the Amazon, Congo Basin, and Southeast Asia regions. Apply by December 20.

The taz Panter Foundation and Reporters Without Borders are accepting applications for a six-month-long Rest & Resilience Fellowship in Berlin, Germany, for journalists from countries with restricted press freedoms. Apply by November 19.

Grants. Earth Journalism Network is offering media organizations up to $15,000 for projects that address environmental news fatigue and promote better public engagement with climate media in the Asia-Pacific region. Apply by December 3.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism is offering reporting grants to US-based journalists of up to $10,000 for investigative projects exposing wrongdoings in the public and private sectors. Apply by January 29.