Home > Uncategorized > The richest 1% alone emit more carbon than the poorest half of the planet.

The richest 1% alone emit more carbon than the poorest half of the planet.

. . .  everything indicates more and more clearly that the resolution of the climate challenge can not be achieved without a powerful movement of compression of social inequalities, at all levels. With the current scale of inequalities, the march towards energetic sobriety will remain wishful thinking. Firstly because carbon emissions are highly concentrated among the richest. Globally, the richest 10% are responsible for almost half of the emissions, and the richest 1% alone emit more carbon than the poorest half of the planet. The drastic reduction of the purchasing power of the richest would therefore as such have a substantial impact on the reduction of emissions at the global level.

Moreover, it is hard to see how the middle and lower classes of rich and emerging countries would accept to change their way of life (which is nevertheless indispensable) if they are not given proof that the better-off are put to use. 

Thomas Piketty

  1. June 14, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Where is the data?

  2. lobdillj
    June 14, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    I agree with the diagnosis of the problem. However, I am skeptical that “The drastic reduction of the purchasing power of the richest would therefore as such have a substantial impact on the reduction of emissions at the global level.” First of all, the richest are not using their purchasing power to buy products in the real economy where all natural resource extraction takes place. They are pouring their income into the Wall Street casino, which is simply gambling.

  3. June 14, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    The Wall St Casino will have to be crushed. Because the debt level is a huge number [no one knows exactly] only a debt Jubilee can strike it down. Then tackle the huge debts applying to the asset market, such as housing, which has its own momentum. Steve Keen recommends a jubilee there too, but in the form of a bonus to everyone. It is intended to use it to pay the banks for the mortgages and those with no debt to get it as a payment bonus, for equity reasons. Whatever, something has to be done.

  4. Helen Sakho
    June 15, 2019 at 1:08 am

    In a world now so polluted with emissions, corruption, cronyism, various forms of new and old human trafficking, slavish employment, war and conflict, homelessness and destitution, whatever is done (if anything can be done) will be a damage minimising exercise only. And that too will be a face-saving exercise for the warring politicians to get to power and claim that the all problems were unfairly inherited…

  5. Ikonoclast
    June 15, 2019 at 1:31 am

    Our Word in Data has some good data and graphs, including interactive graphs, on CO2 emissions.


    On a quick perusal I could not see any data or graphs broken down by wealth class trans-nationally. As always, how quantitative data is sliced and presented plays a role in the social construction of knowledge.

    It would be nice to see the data source for Piketty’s claim. I say this even though I don’t doubt his claim. The world population clock is now over 7.7 billion people. One percent of this is 77.7 million.

    According to the Global Rich List calculator, an income of US$32,400 a year will allow you to make the cut. US$32,400 amounts to roughly 28,614 euros. (I doubt the accuracy of this site. I did various tests on it and got anomalous answers.)

    Even so, these numbers indicate if you are solid middle class or better off in Europe, Canada or Australia, you are part of the richest 1% globally. In the USA you might have to be upper middle class or better off, due to the collapsing and hollowing out of the middle class in the USA. It’s not hard to believe that the developed world middle class and those better off globally are generating (by consumption) more CO2 emissions than the poorest half of the planet.

  6. Old Nick
    June 15, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    Whatever the data, mimetic desire (everyone wants what their neighbour has) is an immense obstacle when people are urged to consume less. Unless the well off will mitigate their consumption voluntarily, we are doomed. Moreover, our (accumulated) wealth is based upon centuries of growing productivity, facilitated by burning fossil fuels. It is hardly imaginable that this wealth can be maintained, let alone redistributed more evenly, once we give up this almost free multiplier of the factor labour. Note that tens of miliions of years of carbon storage have already been burnt in a couple of centuries, half of it in the last 3 decades. That figures the (solar) energy involved. Good luck to all of us!

  7. Ken Zimmerman
    June 19, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Piketty is quoting from a 2015 Oxfam report, EXTREME CARBON INEQUALITY, Why the Paris climate deal must put the poorest, lowest emitting and most vulnerable people first. The report can be found here, https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/extreme-carbon-inequality

    Figures 2, 4, and 5 present the data clearly. The report is well footnoted with explanations of data sources and calculations.

    Old Nick, it is easy to consume less. That can be done through a simple schedule or calendar of daily consumption. What’s not easy and may be impossible is to want less.

  8. Ken Zimmerman
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