Monday, 20 June 2022 17:23

How the World’s Richest People Are Driving Global Warming

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How the World’s Richest People Are Driving Global Warming Photographer: Jeremy Suyker/Bloomberg

It’s the bedrock idea underpinning global climate politics: Countries that got rich by spewing greenhouse gasses have a responsibility to cut emissions faster than those that didn’t while putting up money to help poor nations adapt.

This framework made sense at the dawn of climate diplomacy. Back in 1990, almost two-thirds of all disparities in emissions could be explained by national rankings of pollution. But after more than three decades of rising income inequality worldwide, what if gaps between nation states are no longer the best way to understand the problem?

There’s growing evidence that the inequality between rich and poor people’s emissions within countries now overwhelms the country-to-country disparities. In other words: High emitters have more in common across international boundaries, no matter where they call home.

Analysts from the World Inequality Lab, which is led by the Paris School of Economics and University of California at Berkeley recently put forward an alternative assessment focusing more on varying measures of consumer income than gross domestic product. After a generation of poorly distributed gains from globalization, it turns out that personal wealth does more than national wealth to explain the sources of emissions. Climate progress means first curbing the carbon output of the wealthier among us.

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