America’s richest 10% are responsible for 40% of its planet-heating pollution, new report finds

August 18, 2023

America’s wealthiest people are also some of the world’s biggest polluters – not only because of their massive homes and private jets, but because of the fossil fuels generated by the companies they invest their money in.

A new study published Thursday in the journal PLOS Climate found the wealthiest 10% of Americans are responsible for almost half of planet-heating pollution in the US, and called on governments to shift away from “regressive” taxes on the carbon-intensity of what people buy and focus on taxing climate-polluting investments instead.

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Sometimes when people talk about ways to tackle the climate crisis, they bring up population control, said Mark Paul, a political economist at Rutgers University who was also not involved in the study. But studies like this “shine light on the outsized responsibility that the rich have in generating and perpetuating the climate crisis,” he told CNN.

Identifying the main actors behind the climate crisis is vital for governments to develop policies that cut planet-heating pollution in a fair way, he added. Although he disagreed with the study’s assertion that carbon taxes on consumption disproportionately affect the poor, saying there were ways to implement them fairly.

The outsized climate impact of the rich is, of course, far from just a US problem.

CNN, August 17, 2023

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