For Bloomberg, Eric Roston, Leslie Kaufman and Hayley Warren put together a data viz report on wealth inequality as a major contributor to the climate crisis.
It’s the bedrock idea underpinning global climate politics: Countries that got rich by spewing greenhouse gasses have a responsibility to cut emissions faster than those that didn’t while putting up money to help poor nations adapt.
This framework made sense at the dawn of climate diplomacy. Back in 1990, almost two-thirds of all disparities in emissions could be explained by national rankings of pollution. But after more than three decades of rising income inequality worldwide, what if gaps between nation states are no longer the best way to understand the problem?
There’s growing evidence that the inequality between rich and poor people’s emissions within countries now overwhelms the country-to-country disparities. In other words: High emitters have more in common across international boundaries, no matter where they call home.
The rhetoric behind combatting climate change focuses more on poor people and their behaviours rather than corporations, private jet owners, and financially richer populations of meat eaters.
As people get richer, diets tend to diversify and meat consumption rises. We’d need a second Earth if everyone had the diet of an Australian or Brit. The average American in 2019 ate 53 pounds of beef—the most carbon intensive meat—according to USDA. But families in Argentina and Uruguay—where a lot of cattle are farmed—consumed even more than that, according to an industry website. Growing middle classes in developing countries from China to South Africa are eating more meat than ever.
Far higher up the income distribution, the emissions increase exponentially. The single-most polluting asset, a superyacht, saw a 77% surge in sales last year. An 11-minute ride to space, like the one taken by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is responsible for more carbon per passenger than the lifetime emissions of any one of the world’s poorest billion people, according to WIL.
One-tenth of all flights departing from France in 2019 were on private aircraft. In just four hours, those individually-owned planes generate as much carbon dioxide as an average person in the European Union emits all year. Four-fifths of the people on the planet never get on an airplane in their entire lifetime, according to market analysis by Boeing.
But hey, turn your TV off at the mains every night and save a few pennies a year, you RESOURCE HOG!