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How the World’s Richest People Are Fuelling the Climate Crisis While Pointing Fingers at You

Source: Markus Spiske/ Pexels

Whenever we talk about the world’s 1%, we are usually referring to the few wealthiest people on earth who control up to half of the world’s wealth. But have you ever wondered whether they could be in charge of more than just the world’s finances? 

Beyond just riches, a recent study that has been published in the PLOS Climate Journal has shown that the wealthiest people in the world are also disproportionately responsible for driving climate change. 

This school of thought believes these super emitters are the ones largely to blame for the droughts, heatwaves, rising sea levels, hurricanes, and human activities that have led us to the climate crisis we are experiencing today. Unfortunately, the larger 99% are the ones who often take the blame.

Jarred Starr, one of the authors of the study is a University of Massachusetts student graduate from the Department of Environmental Conservation. According to him, “the top 1% of households are responsible for more emissions (15-17%) than the lower-earning half of American households put together (14% of national emissions)…we found that the highest earning top 10% of households are responsible for about 40% of U.S. GHG.”

Starr also went ahead to discuss the relationship between emissions and investments. In his words, “The share of emissions coming from investments increases as we move up the income ladder. For the top 0.1% households, more than half of their emissions are coming from investment income.” 

Graphically speaking, this means that if the emissions from the households of the bottom 10% are the size of a home, those from the 1% will be equivalent to 5 Empire State buildings placed on top of each other. Meanwhile, that from the top 0.1% will exceed Mount Everest’s height. Starr’s study also shows that White Non-Hispanic households emit more carbons than White Hispanic and Black households. 


A University of Pennsylvania Earth and Environment Science professor, Dr. Michael E. Mann, has written about the false claims climate change activists make. He agrees with Starr’s study. According to his book, “The New Climate War ,” they make climate change seem like an individual problem, as though the poor were as responsible for the crisis as the rich. Mann says that’s not true. 

He suggests that instead of spreading such misinformation, progressive climate pricing should be employed in response to energy inequality. “For example, Canada has instituted a progressive carbon tax where revenue is preferentially returned to low-income earners and families,” he said. 

Mann believes that the campaign for lifestyle changes to save the environment should be directed to the super-rich emitters and not the low-income earners who have almost no fault in the crisis. Only the exceedingly rich can effect the changes the world wishes to see. 

While everyone has contributed to harming the planet in one way or another, the real solution doesn’t lie in changing individual consumer choices. Instead, it begins with the extremely wealthy households taking their fair share of responsibility for destroying the environment to further enrich themselves. 

As Starr put it, the political class should “explain to the rest of the public why they think it is ok for a small group of people to enrich themselves while leaving the rest of society and future generations an uninhabitable planet…let us hold them to political account for their choice.”


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