Why don’t we care that the ultra-rich are fucking up our climate?

That the ultra-rich are responsible for the lion’s share of carbon emissions is gaining a wider coverage in the media. But why are we so apathetic in demanding them to change and so eager to adjust our own (carbon insignificant) lives?

What I though was an ironic post to carbon-shame the ultra rich.

Oxfam International recently released a comprehensive report into carbon emissions by income group concluding that the richest 1% emit more than double the carbon of the poorest 50%. Thinking this was a surefire way to start a recreational outrage discussion on how to de-rich this problematic carbon emitting group, I posted a link to my Facebook asking if any of my friends had good ideas for tackling climate change. To my surprise the discussion was more around things we could do in our everyday lives: one of my friends commented ‘Eating locally and organically produced food!‘ another commented that the current debate environment was not conducive to reducing carbon emissions, while yet another commented about building atmospheric processors to reverse greenhouse gas emissions. To give the discussion justice one of my friends, Henner, did comment ‘Eat the rich?’ which received a lot of likes, but the overwhelming focus missed the cash-shaming, de-richification discussion I had expected.

In the EU the top 1% of households have carbon footprints over 50 tCO2eq/cap while the bottom 50% has less than 5 tCO2eq/cap. Only 5% of the EU households live within a carbon footprint target of 2.5 tCO2eq/cap needed to mitigate climate change, according to Diana Ivanova and Richard Wood. This indicates that – yes – we should focus on reducing everyone’s carbon footprint, but there are significant environmental gains to be made by reducing the carbon footprints of the ultra-rich. But if we don’t provide any pressure or incentives I’m not sure the ultra-rich are inclined to stop spewing carbon into the atmosphere – I mean they are the ones who can afford to pop off to mars and leave us suckers here to deal with droughts, flooding, hurricanes, fires and goodness knows what else the climate change gods have in store for us.

I wonder how we could change narratives around changing individual behaviour and focus on reducing carbon emissions of the ultra-rich?

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