Energy & Environment

Greenhouse gas emissions closely correlated with income: study

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Richer countries and people are contributing a disproportionate amount to greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report released by the World Inequality Lab (WIL) research organization on Tuesday.

According to the WIL’s report, the top 1 percent of carbon emitting countries account for 17 percent of emissions, while the bottom 50 percent of countries account for only about 12 percent.

Lucas Chancel, the WIL’s co-director, told Yahoo News, “Wealthy individuals pollute much more than low-income groups.”

“An extreme illustration of this is when billionaires decide to do a nine-minute trip to space. Estimates suggest this adds 75 tonnes of carbon per passenger,” said Chancel. “It takes a lifetime for about a billion people on earth to reach this level of per capita emissions.”

Disparities in emissions varied from region to region. In Europe, the WIL found that the bottom 50 percent of the population’s earners emitted 5 tons of carbon every year per person, while in East Asia, the bottom 50 percent emitted 3 tons per person per year.

In North America, the bottom 50 percent of the population emitted nearly 10 tons of carbon per person annually.

Apart from this measure of worldwide inequality, scientists and world leaders have repeatedly warned that poorer countries will ultimately bear the brunt of the negative effects of global climate change. 

Ahead of the recent United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the leaders of small island nations such as Fiji, Tuvalu, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines called on richer, major carbon emitting countries to commit to truly addressing climate change.

“Climate change is going to exacerbate global inequalities, which are already very high,” Chancel said to Yahoo.

“Poorest countries like Bangladesh or Small Island States will be hit very hard by rising sea levels or extreme weather events. In rich countries, the poorest groups of the population are also more vulnerable to floods or forest fires induced by climate change, because they have fewer resources to recover after their homes are destroyed,” he said.

Tags Climate change Climate change mitigation Climate change policy Climate variability and change Effects of climate change Greenhouse gas emissions Individual action on climate change

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