12/02/2011 01:04 pm ET

Big Banks' Lending To Coal Industry Detailed In New Study (PHOTOS)

Are big banks financing climate change? A new study detailing big banks' lending to the coal industry over the past six years says yes.

"Bankrolling Climate Change," released by Urgewald, groundWork South Africa, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and BankTrack shows the top 20 banks who have invested the most in the coal industry.

The organizations strictly focused on coal investment, citing the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions tied to coal-fired power plants. "We chose to look into coal financing as coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions and the major culprit in the drama of climate change," said Heffa Schuecking of urgewald in a press release.

The banks that have been dubbed "climate killers" come from a group of 93 major financial institutions whose portfolios were checked for support of major coal mining companies and coal-fired electricity producers. According to BankTrack, their analysis included 31 coal mining companies and 40 coal-fired electricity companies, together representing 44 percent of the world's coal mining and over 50 percent of the world's coal-fired electricity capacity.

Reuters reports that total investment in the coal industry from the 93 banks totals over $309 billion since 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol came into effect.

According to UPI, the Rainforest Action Network has dubbed coal-fired electricity "the world's top polluter."

In addition to greenhouse gas emissions and a suggested link to climate change, coal-fired power stations have also been blamed for health problems. Citing both the environmental and public health impacts of coal-fired electricity generation, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $50 million this summer to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.

A prominent coal mining technique, known as mountaintop removal, has also been linked to health problems. Earlier this year, a study found that children born near mountaintop removal sites have "significantly higher" rates of birth defects than those not born near the mines.

Below, check out the list of the top 20 banks who have reportedly lent the most money to the coal industry in recent years.

List and lending figures courtesy of "Bankrolling Climate Change."

Top 20 Climate Killer Banks