A recent study by Oxfam has revealed that the wealthiest 1% of the world is responsible for more carbon emissions than 66% of the poorer population, with devastating consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to combat climate change. The report shows that this elite group, comprising 77 million people including billionaires, millionaires and those earning more than $140,000 a year, accounted for 16% of all CO2 emissions worldwide in 2019 – enough to cause over a million additional heat-related deaths.
According to Oxfam’s research, while the richest 1% tend to live relatively comfortable lives with air conditioning and insulation from extreme weather conditions, their emissions – equivalent to 5.9 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2019 – are causing immense suffering for marginalized communities, migrants and women and girls who work and live outside or in homes vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. These groups are less likely to have savings, insurance or social protection, putting them at greater risk both economically and physically from floods, droughts, heatwaves and forest fires.
The UN reports that developing countries account for over 91% of deaths related to extreme weather events. Furthermore, it would take approximately 1500 years for someone living in the bottom 99% of the population to produce as much carbon as the wealthiest billionaires produce in a year. This highlights the disproportionate impact that climate change has on vulnerable populations and underscores the need for urgent action from governments and individuals worldwide to mitigate these effects.