The Rich Get Richer and the Environment gets Poorer

By: Megan LeBoff

Photo credits to : LaReserva

     How the wealthy class is destroying the environment

     When you think of a rich person, what do you see? A mansion? Their own private jet? Well, what many people don’t think about, is that with a bigger bank account comes a bigger carbon footprint.

     Members of the wealthy class notoriously have a lot of things and travel often. With all the stuff they have and all the times they travel, many fossil fuels are burned and many greenhouse gasses are emitted.

      Oxfam released a study that found the richest 10 percent of people produce half of the planet’s individual-consumption-based fossil fuel emissions, while the poorest 50 percent – about 3.5 billion people –  contribute only 10 percent. 

     Climate change is a huge inequality, costing the world’s most vulnerable communities much more than the wealthy class. In fact, while climate change seems like a problem for the future, many people are currently suffering from the effects.

     Several of the world’s poorest people live in equatorial regions with high average temperatures. This means that a small increase in temperature can be dramatic and lead to tougher impacts, according to a study in the Geophysical Research Letter in 2018. In the meantime, the wealthy population of the world is continuing to raise the temperatures with their private jets and fancy cars, making the situation worse.

     While the wealthy class is the main contributor to climate change, they are maybe the best chance we have at reversing it.

     To start, they can fund projects and research that need money in order to do any good. This research is desperately needed if we are to save our planet. 

     For example, they can fund the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a giant patch of garbage pulled together by different ocean currents. This monstrosity affects thousands of animals living in the ocean. To clean up this mess it would take roughly 390 million dollars. This is only 3.6 percent of Bill Gates’s net worth. If the cost of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was split amongst multiple millionaires and billionaires, the patch would be taken care of very quickly.

    Another way the wealthy can help is by using their power. Rich people can not only fund research, but they can also have a political influence. If they tried, they could most likely change climate policies. And, they have a very good reason to. A recent Government report cautioned that postponing climate policies would cost the world’s leading companies $1.2 trillion throughout the next 15 years.

     Now not all of the wealthy class are selfish and unhelpful. For example, in 2015, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates donated $2 billion of his wealth to fund clean energy research and development. More recently, Elon Musk donated enough money to plant one million trees.

    Even if you’re not the wealthiest person, you can easily do your part in cleaning up our planet. In fact, the earth counts on volunteers to help with beach cleanups and environment protection. Also, the middle and lower class make up roughly 81 percent of the population. If we want to stop things like the Pacific Garbage Patch from growing, we need to stop feeding it. All you need to do is throw that plastic bottle in the recycling bin. If we all do little things like that, the earth will be cleaned up in no time.

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