It comes as no surprise that ultra-rich people such as Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Roman Abramovich live high (ecologically) lives. However, the fact that twelve of the world’s richest billionaires together emit almost 17 million tons of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases still raises some eyebrows. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 17 million tons of CO₂ corresponds to the annual emissions of 3.8 million gasoline cars or the energy consumption of 2.1 million homes.
The British newspaper The Guardian came to these conclusions based on research that has been shared exclusively with them. The scientists behind the figures are Beatriz Barros and Richard Wilk, two anthropologists from Indiana University in the US, who worked with analysts from the NGO Oxfam to calculate with publicly available figures. They examined how many homes and luxury yachts the billionaires own, how they travel and what financial investments they make.
For example, the CO₂ emissions from the 127-meter-long superyacht Koru of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are at least 7,154 tons per year. But the emissions from their luxury yachts, private jets and mansions pale in comparison to the pollution they cause with their financial investments, according to Alex Maitland, inequality policy adviser at Oxfam International.
Oxfam often makes headlines with reports about global inequality and the almost limitless wealth of the top layer of society. On Monday, Oxfam published a report stating that the richest 1 percent (77 million people) emit as much greenhouse gases as two-thirds of the world’s population (5.34 billion people). Their CO₂ emissions are enough to cause 1.3 million additional heat-related deaths, according to Oxfam.
The report, titled Climate equality: A planet for the 99%, is based on research in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and assesses consumption emissions of different income groups in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. Oxfam advocates heavy taxes on the wealth of the super-rich in order to support those most affected, reduce inequality and finance a transition to renewable energy.
The report is published in the run-up to the UN climate summit in Dubai, which starts on November 30. Oxfam believes that the emissions from the ‘one percenters’ are hitting the planet and especially the lowest layers of society particularly hard. The super-rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity suffocating in extreme heat, floods and drought.