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New report reveals the enormous gap between the world's top 1% and everyone else: 'This is fundamentally unfair'

"The gap between the super-rich and the rest of us is stark."

"The gap between the super-rich and the rest of us is stark."

Photo Credit: iStock

A shocking new report revealed that it would take multiple lifetimes for most people to generate as much carbon pollution as the richest billionaires do each year.  

What's happening?

As detailed by CBS News, a joint study by the Guardian, the Stockholm Environment Institute, and international charity Oxfam discovered that "extreme inequality" and our planet's rising temperatures are "interlaced, fused together and driving one another," with the 1% of wealthiest people globally (people who earn more than $140,000 annually) producing 16% of all carbon pollution in 2019. 

This was equivalent to "the emissions of the poorest 66% of humanity" and "enough to cause 1.3 million excess deaths due to heat between 2020 and 2100," according to the report — titled "Climate Equality: A planet for the 99%." 

Meanwhile, the richest 10% created around half of the annual pollution in 2019, while 12 billionaires alone generated nearly 19 million tons of pollution from their homes, yachts, transportation, and investments, as the Guardian reported. 

"The gap between the super-rich and the rest of us is stark. It would take about 1,500 years for someone in the bottom 99% to produce as much carbon as the richest billionaires do in a year. This is fundamentally unfair," Oxfam senior climate justice policy advisor Chiara Liguori said in a press release from the charity. 

The report also noted that women and girls, Indigenous peoples, and people living in poverty are among the groups that are especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of changing global temperatures. 

Why is this concerning?

The latest Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations found that the creation of planet-warming pollution reached record levels in 2023, raising concerns that efforts to reduce its production, including by transitioning to clean energy, aren't happening fast enough.

Our planet's changing temperatures have been linked to an increased risk of disease, more extreme flooding, dangerous heat waves, and food supply issues, among other things. 

As the climate equality study pointed out, though, "only the richest people and countries have the wealth, power, and influence to protect themselves," making it vital to set economic goals that help create a positive future for all of society.  

What can be done to help?

According to CBS News, the climate equality report advocated for policies to help reduce pollution generated by the world's wealthiest, including a 60% income tax in order to eliminate 700 million tons of harmful pollution.

It's unclear which steps will be taken in the long term, as advocating for change can be a complex and collaborative process, but it's important to note that many major corporations, like Microsoft and Apple, are already transitioning away from dirty energy

Some billion-dollar businesses, meanwhile, have sustainability programs in place that are making a huge positive impact. 

On an individual level, there are also money-saving ways to reduce harmful pollution that disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable, including switching to LED light bulbs and unplugging energy vampires.

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