The richest 1 percent of the world’s population are creating as much carbon pollution as those in the poorest two-thirds of humanity.
The wealthiest 1 percent will likely cause 1.3 million heat-related excess deaths between 2020 and 2030, according to a new report from Oxfam, which found that the top 1 percent (77 million people) produced as much pollution as the world's 5 billion poorest residents in 2019.
“The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity choking on extreme heat, floods, and drought,” Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar said in a statement. “For years we’ve fought to end the era of fossil fuels to save millions of lives and our planet. It’s clearer than ever this will be impossible until we, too, end the era of extreme wealth."
The rich and their pollution
In 2019, the richest 1 percent were responsible for 16 percent of global emissions — more than all car and road transport emissions. The richest 10 percent accounted for half of all emissions. On average, it would take around 1,500 years for a person in the bottom 99 percent to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires do in just one year.
The report noted that people living in poverty, women and girls, Indigenous communities, and countries in the Global South are "feeling the unequal brunt of climate impacts, which in turn increase the divide." Seven times more people die from floods in unequal countries, the study found, which demonstrates how "climate change is already worsening inequality both between and within countries."
As rich countries are disproportionately responsible for global warming, Oxfam called on western leaders to end oil and gas production faster, and impose new taxes on corporations and billionaires, which it notes could help pay for the transition to renewable energy.
“We must make the connection explicitly. Not taxing wealth allows the richest to rob from us, ruin our planet and renege on democracy," Behar said. "Taxing extreme wealth transforms our chances to tackle both inequality and the climate crisis. These are trillions of dollars at stake to invest in dynamic 21st century green governments, but also to re-inject into our democracies."
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