America’s wealthiest people are among the world’s biggest pollutants. The richest 10% population and their enormous houses and private aircraft, and fossil fuel usage are a reason.
According to a new study published on Thursday in the journal PLOS Climate, the wealthiest 10% of Americans are responsible for almost half of the planet-heating pollution in the US. The study urged governments to stop enforcing “regressive” taxes on people’s purchases based on their carbon intensity and instead concentrate on taxing investments that contribute to climate change.
“Global warming can be this huge, overwhelming, nebulous thing happening in the world and you feel like you’ve got no agency over it. You kind of know that you’re contributing to it in some way, but it’s really not clear or quantifiable,” said Jared Starr, a sustainability scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a report author.
The researchers did this by establishing a link between financial transactions and carbon pollution using extensive information spanning 30 years.
They examined the greenhouse gas emissions brought on by businesses’ direct activities as well as those pertaining to the climate impacts of businesses farther down the supply chain. For instance, the majority of an oil company’s emissions are brought on by its customers burning the oil it collects.
With the help of population survey data that revealed the industries people work for as well as their income from wages and investments, the researchers were able to link the carbon footprint that was generated for every dollar of economic activity in the US to homes.
They discovered that 40% of the US’s human-caused, climate-warming pollution was produced by the wealthiest 10% of families, or those earning more than around $178,000 annually. Only households earning more than $550,000 in the top 1% were responsible for 15% to 17% of this pollution.\
We use fire extinguishers to spray paint Nancy Walton’s 300 million euro mega-yacht, a member of the world’s wealthiest women and the heiress to the Walmart fortune worth 8.7 billion dollars.
The average North American in 2021 produced 11 times more CO2 as a result of energy use than the average African. However, differences between income groups matter more than ever. In 2021, the top 1% of emitters had carbon footprints that were more than 50 tonnes of CO2 each, more than 1000 times larger than the carbon footprints of the bottom 1% of emitters.
A typical SUV can be driven for 18 months or two roundtrip flights between Singapore and New York without exceeding the average worldwide energy-related carbon footprint of 4.7 tonnes per person. These stark discrepancies are a reflection of the wide disparities in wealth, lifestyle, and consumption that exist.