Wealthiest 1% of world's population emitted more carbon dioxide than 3 billion people from poorer half: Report

Further, roughly 630 million people, who make up the richest 10% of the world population, were responsible for over 52% of carbon dioxide emissions, the report said


                            Wealthiest 1% of world's population emitted more carbon dioxide than 3 billion people from poorer half: Report
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The contribution of the wealthiest 1% of the world's population to the rising carbon dioxide levels has been immense between 1990 and 2015. Their emissions were more than double of those released by the three billion people from the poorer half of the globe, according to a new report compiled by Oxfam.

Further, roughly 630 million people, who make up the richest 10% of the world population, were responsible for over 52% of carbon dioxide emissions. The wealthiest 1% accounted for 15% of emissions, compared to the 7% released by the poorest half of humanity, the report said.

Between 1990 and 2015, the levels of carbon dioxide --a heat-trapping gas -- have doubled. In 2019, it reached about 409 parts per million (ppm). According to estimates, it could increase to 550ppm by 2100 based on how the world acts on climate change. Temperatures are predicted to warm by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Global temperatures have increased by one-degree Celsius since the pre-industrial period. It is linked with deadly cyclones in India and Bangladesh, huge locust swarms in Africa, and unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires across Australia and the US. "If carbon inequality is left unchecked by 2030, the world could reach the tipping point of 1.5C warming. Carbon inequality is so stark, the emissions of just the richest 10 percent would trigger catastrophic climate change by 2033 even if all other emissions were cut to zero," the Oxfam report said.

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“The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis and putting the planet in peril. No one is immune from the impact, but the world’s poorest are paying the heaviest price despite contributing least emissions as they battle floods, famines and cyclones," Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB chief executive, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that the poorest tend to bear the brunt of climate change. People from low-income communities not only suffer from higher rates of many health conditions but are also exposed to environmental hazards. They are also likely to take longer to return to normalcy following disasters fuelled by global warming like droughts, floods, wildfires. It, however, does not mean that the rich are shielded. According to findings from a 2017 study, warmer conditions in the southern part of the US is likely to shift wealth toward the Northern and Western regions, thereby worsening inequality in the country.

Climate change also has a bearing on food security. According to one study, rising carbon dioxide levels could cause crops to produce fewer nutrients, thereby leading to zinc deficiency in 175 million more people and protein deficiency in 122 million more people by 2050. 

Oxfam is urging governments to increase wealth taxes and add new carbon taxes on luxury items – such as private jets and super yachts, carbon-intensive SUVs, and frequent flights. Sriskandarajah said: “Extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of the decades-long pursuit by governments and businesses of grossly unequal and carbon-intensive economic growth whatever the cost. As leaders make decisions about what a post-Covid recovery looks like, they should seize this opportunity to reshape our economy, encourage low carbon living, and create a better future for all."

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