12 Richest People Cause More Pollution Than 2M Homes

New Oxfam report points the finger at the 1% for more carbon emissions than poorest 2/3 of world
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2023 10:00 AM CST
12 Richest People Cause More Pollution Than 2M Homes
Elon Musk is seen during an event with Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London on Nov. 2.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool)

If you're feeling guilty that you haven't yet bought an EV or installed solar panels on your roof to cut down on your portion of greenhouse gases, you're (somewhat) off the hook—you can blame the 1% for a lot of that pollution. A new Oxfam International report points the finger at the world's richest for generating as much carbon emissions in 2019 as the world's poorest two-thirds, a "grave portrait" as climate experts continue to try to combat global warming, per the Washington Post. According to the report, the 1% was behind more carbon emissions than that spewed out by all car and road transportation worldwide that year, with the wealthiest 10% responsible for half of the global carbon emissions.

The Guardian parses that 1% down even more, reporting that the greenhouse gas emissions from the homes, yachts, jets, and financial investments of a dozen of the Earth's richest people—including Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos—exceed the yearly emissions from 2 million other homes, or from nearly five coal-fired power plants. All together, those 12 billionaires account for 18.7 million tons of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases. Topping that list: Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, with Gates close behind and then Bezos. To put it in context, Oxfam says in a release that it would take most regular people 1,500 years to emit as much carbon as the wealthiest billionaires do in one year.

Oxfam adds that these emissions from the 1% will lead to upward of 1.3 million excess deaths caused by heat between 2020 and 2030, which the anti-poverty group notes is roughly the population of Dublin. Amitabh Behar, Oxfam International's interim director, says it's time to "end the era of extreme wealth," adding that "the super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity choking on extreme heat, floods, and drought." The group asserts that "fairly taxing the super-rich would help curb both climate change and inequality." It suggests a 60% tax on the 1%, which it says would "cut emissions by more than the total emissions of the UK and raise $6.4 trillion a year to pay for the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy." (More carbon emissions stories.)

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