Rich people live more climate-damaging lives than poor people

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According to data analyses by the development organisation Oxfam, the extreme consumption of the rich and super-rich is accelerating global warming at an almost obscene rate. In 2019, the richest one percent of the world’s population caused as many climate-damaging greenhouse gases as the five billion people who make up the poorer two-thirds, according to an Oxfam report published on Monday.

The report “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99 Percent” is based on the scientific finding that people’s greenhouse gas emissions increase with their private income and wealth. The causes include more frequent air travel, bigger homes, and general consumption that damages the climate, in extreme cases manifested in the form of megayachts, private jets, and luxurious villas. The figures are based on data from the Stockholm Environment Institute, which draws on data from the Global Carbon Atlas, the World Inequality Database, the Penn World Tables on Income (PWT), and figures from the World Bank.

Commenting on the findings, Oxfam spokesperson Manuel Schmitt said: “Through their extreme consumption, the rich and super-rich are fueling the climate crisis, which is threatening the livelihoods of billions of people with heatwaves, droughts and floods, especially in the low-income countries of the Global South.” Some of the results:

More than twice as much as the consumption patterns of the poorer half of the global population and more than the emissions from all global road traffic, the consumption patterns of the richest 1% (77 million people) accounted for 16 percent of global emissions in 2019.

The richest ten percent of the world’s population was responsible for around half of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
The richest one percent of the world’s population in 2019 included people with an annual income of over 140,000 US dollars.

Oxfam explained that new taxes are now needed on climate-damaging corporations and the assets and incomes of the super-rich. This would significantly increase the financial scope for the transition to renewable energies. However, “an overcoming of the current economic system and the fixation on the pursuit of profit, the exploitation of natural resources, and consumer-oriented lifestyles” are ultimately also necessary.

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