Research by anti-poverty charity Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute reveals carbon dioxide emissions rose by 60 percent from 1990 to 2015. The report blames the wealthiest one percent for 15 percent of those emissions.
That is more than twice as much carbon dioxide as emitted by the poorer half of the world. The study also showed that the richest 10 percent of the global population, comprising about 630 million people, was responsible for about 52 percent of global emissions over that period. Globally, that 10 percent comprises those with incomes above $35,000 a year, and the richest one percent are those earning more than $100,000.
The report warns that rampant overconsumption and the rich world’s addiction to high-carbon transport are exhausting the world’s “carbon budget.” Tim Gore, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Research at Oxfam and the author of the report, said that, “The over-consumption of the wealthy is fueling the climate crisis, yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price. Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our governments’ decades-long pursuit of grossly inequal and carbon-intensive economic growth.”
The study said that carbon emissions are likely to rapidly rebound as governments ease Covid-related lockdowns. If emissions do not keep falling year on year, then, in the next decade, those of the world’s richest 10 percent would be enough to raise levels above the point likely to increase temperatures by 1.5C, even if the whole of the rest of the world immediately cut their emissions to zero.
“The best possible, morally defensible purpose is for all humanity to live a decent life, but [the carbon budget] has been used up by the already rich in getting richer,” said Gore.
The research paper says transport is one of the key drivers of growth in emissions, with people in rich countries showing an increasing tendency to drive high-emitting cars, such as SUVs, and take more flights. “This isn’t about people who have one family holiday a year, but people who are taking long-haul flights every month – it’s a fairly small group of people,” Gore added.
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