10 per cent of the richest people have emitted as much carbon as the rest of the world combined, a study has revealed.
The report, done by New report by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), further reveal that the rich are also responsible for 52 per cent of the cumulative carbon emissions depleting the global carbon budget by nearly a third (31 per cent) in those 25 years alone.
It paints a grim picture as the poor populations that emit the least carbon emissions suffer the most at the expense of the rich who continue expanding the unequal economic growth.
The poorest 50 per cent about 3.1 billion people were responsible for just 7 per cent of cumulative emissions, and used just 4 per cent of the available carbon budget.
“The over-consumption of a wealthy minority 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 unequal and carbon intensive economic growth,” said Tim Gore, author of the report and head of Climate Policy at Oxfam.
In just 25 years, as much carbon entered our atmosphere as has been emitted in all history previously.
The report blames the continued squandering of the carbon budget over the past 20 to 30 years to the one per cent who fly frequently and buy bigger cars thus increasing emission. This leads to a perpetual state of suffering for the poor and marginalised people who are struggling with climate impacts and future generations who will inherit the curse of a depleted carbon budget, and a world accelerating towards climate breakdown.
Even though lockdowns and restrictions attributed to the pandemic saw a fall of global emissions; the effects of climate change have still hit hard in 2020. Monsoon floods have wiped out homes and killed hundreds in Nepal, India and Bangladesh, Desert Locust continue flocking in the billions in East Africa and Western Asia while heat waves and wild fires that have devastate the United States and Australia.
The report also cautions that unless emissions continue to decline rapidly, the 1.5C global carbon budget will be fully depleted by 2030. The inequality is such that the richest 10 per cent alone would fully deplete it by just a few years later, even if everyone else's emissions dropped to zero tomorrow.
It is the carbon dioxide emission and accumulation in the atmosphere that causes temperature levels to rise. That accumulation builds a ceiling called the carbon budget where above which can lead to widespread harm to the ecosystem.
Around half the emissions of the richest 10 per cent are today associated with the consumption of citizens of North America and the European Union, and around a fifth (9.2 per cent of global emissions) with citizens of China and India.
Another recent research also stated that SUVs were the second biggest driver of global carbon emissions growth between 2010 and 2018, a sign of where to start to deal with the problem.
With a pandemic offering an opportunity for a contraction in carbon emission and time to reflect on a way to tackle the incoming climate crisis, Mr Gore suggests that governments must put tackling the twin crises of climate and inequality at the heart of recovery efforts from the covid-19 pandemic.
“Governments must curb the emissions of the wealthy through taxes and bans on luxury carbon such as SUVs and frequent flights. Revenues should be invested in public services and low carbon sectors to create jobs, and help end poverty,” said Gore.