The richest 1% of people in the world are responsible for more than twice as much CO2 emissions as the poorest 50%, a new study has revealed.
Between 1990 and 2015, the ultra-rich 1% (those earning more than around £77,000 per year) released 15% of global emissions.
In contrast, the bottom 50% of global earners were responsible for just 7%, according to the research by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute.
Inequality fuels climate change
All in all, CO2 emissions increased by 60% over this 25-year period.
But the responsibility for this lies at the feet of the wealthiest people – and the gap is only widening.
The richest 1% saw an increase in emissions that was three times higher than the increase recorded in emissions from the poorest 50%.
“Extreme carbon inequality in recent decades has brought the world to the climate brink.”
– Oxfam’s head of research Tim Gore
If you’re reading this in the UK, you’re probably somewhat culpable, unfortunately – the richest 10% are responsible for 52% of emissions.
If you earn £27,000 or more, you’re in that bracket – and the median UK wage is £30,420, according to the Office for National Statistics.
To emphasise how stark this global divide is: if the poorest 90% of people brought their emissions down to zero tomorrow, the richest 10% would still raise the Earth’s average temperature by 1.5°C by the middle of the 2030s.
What happens at 1.5°C?
People all over the world will face a variety of negative consequences with every small increase in the average global temperature.
But at 1.5°C, extreme heatwaves will become widespread, according to NASA.
The most severe heatwaves will affect around 14% of people, who will have to endure these dangerous temperature levels at least once every five years.
Areas affected by these severe heatwaves will include central and southern Europe, the central and eastern regions of North America, the Mediterranean, western and central Asia, and southern Africa.
From France to Florida, vast swathes of the world will take it in turns to be near-uninhabitable.
Animals and other living organisms will also lose areas in which they can live. This will be the case for 6% of all insects, 8% of plants, and 4% of vertebrates.