Monday, November 20, 2023

Climate Change: The rich are killing us

When we think of the causes of climate change, we tend to think of cars, power plants, factories, or (in Aotearoa) fields of cows - dirty, sure, but its basicly the infrastructure of modern civilisation, things which produce benefits for a lot of people. Shutting it down overnight would create horrific problems, so the challenge is about cleaning it up as quickly as possible. But there's another cause, which doesn't benefit anyone: rich people:

The richest 1% of humanity is responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%, with dire consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to tackle the climate emergency, a report says.

The most comprehensive study of global climate inequality ever undertaken shows that this elite group, made up of 77 million people including billionaires, millionaires and those paid more than US$140,000 (£112,500) a year, accounted for 16% of all CO2 emissions in 2019 – enough to cause more than a million excess deaths due to heat, according to the report.

It gets worse: just 12 billionaires produce more emissions from their private planes, megayachts, and mansions, than 2.1 million homes. And those emissions kill nearly 4000 people a year - around 320 for each billionaire. This isn't so much a matter of "behind every great fortune is a great crime" as a great fortune is a great crime - and an ongoing one at that.

In both groups, their luxury emissions don't underlie global civilisation. They just benefit the 1%, at the cost of making all our lives worse. We can, and should, eliminate those emissions as quickly as possible, and doing so will have very little impact on the rest of us.

As for how to do it, the core problem is extreme concentration of wealth, so that's what we need to eliminate, by using wealth, inheritance, land, and capital gains taxes. And once we've seized that wealth, we should redeploy it, to speed the transition and eliminate emissions in the rest of our society. That way we'll all be better off.