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World’s richest 1% emit enough carbon to cause 1.3 million heat-related deaths, report finds

Sobering report takes stock of our warming planet

The ‘polluting elite’ are disproportionately driving climate change, with the world’s richest 1% polluting as much carbon as the poorest two-thirds, according to a new report.

The report, by The Guardian, international charity Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute, reveals that climate change and “extreme inequality” have become “intertwined, fused and fuel each other”.

The researchers found that of all carbon dioxide emission worldwide in 2019, 16% was produced by the richest 1% of people in the world – a group that includes billionaires, millionaires and those who earn more than $140,000 a year. The analysis found that their contribution “is the same as the emissions of the poorest 66% of humanity”, or around 5 billion people.

The report also found that the richest 10% of the world’s population accounted for about half of emissions that year.

“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,” said Chiara Liguori, senior policy advisor on climate justice at Oxfam. “It’s fundamentally unfair.”

The amount of carbon dioxide emissions the richest 1% are estimated to have produced in 2019 – 5.9 billion tonnes – is enough to change global temperatures enough to cause the deaths of around 1.3 million people, according to the report, citing a widely used study. methodology known as the “mortality cost of carbon”.

The report also highlights that just 12 of the world’s richest billionaires contributed almost 17 million tonnes of emissions from their homes, transport, yachts and investments – an amount which it says, equates to more than 4.5 coal-fired power plants over a year. .

Topping the list is Carlos Slim Helu, who, according to Forbes, has a net worth of $94.7 billion. He was followed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and the luxury retail mogul. Bernard Arnault.

Earth is “under siege”

William Ripple, a professor of ecology at Oregon State University who is also director of the Alliance of World Scientists, told CBS News that the report’s methodology and conclusions are “largely consistent with some recent peer-reviewed scientific publications on this topic.

“Carbon inequality and climate justice are major issues,” he said. “To combat climate change, we will need to significantly reduce inequality and provide support and climate compensation to less wealthy regions.”

Last month, Ripple and a team of other scientists published a paper revealing that Earth is “under siege” and “in uncharted territory.” They found several unprecedented records related to climate change and “deeply concerning patterns of climate-related disasters.” They also found that efforts to address these issues have made “minimal progress.”

The Guardian and Oxfam report calls for a number of measures to help humanity “break free from the climate and inequality trap”, including a transition to renewable energy sources. It also suggests a 60% tax on the income of the world’s richest 1%, which the report calculates would result in a 700 million tonne reduction in global emissions.

UN report reveals dangerous ’emissions canyon’

The climate wealth gap report came out on the same day that the United Nations released its own report on the cost of climate adaptation. The United Nations Environment Program has found that despite “clear signs” that the risks from climate change are increasing, countries are falling further behind in the investments needed to respond.

This “adaptation finance gap” is between $194 billion and $366 billion each year, according to the UN report, which says at least 50% more financial investment is needed and highlights that countries in development have “considerably higher” costs and needs than others.

Greenhouse gas emissions – which trap heat in the atmosphere and cause warming – have increased by 1.2% since last year, reaching record levels.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters on Monday that “if nothing changes, in 2030 emissions will be 22 gigatons above the 1.5 degree limit allowed,” referring to the target to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius more than pre-industrial times. The world is expected to exceed this level in the next five years.

“All of this is a failure of leadership, a betrayal of the most vulnerable and a huge missed opportunity. Renewable energy has never been cheaper or more accessible,” said Guterres. “…The report shows that the emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon – a canyon littered with broken promises, shattered lives and broken records.”

CBS News correspondent Pamela Falk contributed to this report.

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