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Climate Change: Propelled by the Rich

Jeffrey Bezos, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk. The well-known billionaires are among the top 1% socioeconomic status of the world. But the richest and their business ventures, and in some cases, extravagant lifestyles, add to climate change the most- even though the poor are the most impacted by climate change. In 2015, the wealthiest 10% were responsible for about 50% of global emissions in 2015, while the poorest 50% were only responsible for 7%. How do billionaires and the top 1% ruin the environment and how can this issue be mitigated?

First, there’s the issue of aviation. Business magnate Bill Gates took 57 flights in 2017, which is the equivalent of 213,000 miles, or 1,600 tons of greenhouse gasses. According to BBC News, this is the average yearly emissions of 105 Americans. And, 1% of the world's people is responsible for 50% of emissions from flying. It’s also obvious that people who own larger and multiple homes contribute more to emissions, especially with uses of electricity.

Additionally, big companies’ reductions in emissions are not committed or comprehensive. Costco and Netflix have said that they want to reduce their impact on climate change, but have not followed up and have not provided emission reduction targets. Other companies have tried and failed to make commitments, eventually unable to cut emissions to a viable level - for example, Cargill, a large agricultural corporation, and Levi Strauss & Co., a clothing company. The global conglomerate business of Amazon had greenhouse gas emissions that were approximately equivalent to Norway’s annual emissions. Last year, CEO Jeff Bezos pledged a $10 billion donation to climate change organizations, scientists, and research. While this may seem like a generous gift, it merely masks the true extent of Amazon’s carbon footprint. Bezos’s multitude of projects - including but not limited to his space firm Blue Origin and Texas mountain clock. - signify that emissions are not at the forefront of his concerns.

Current changes towards the climate crisis are very gradual. Recently, an indirect solution was COVID-19, which reduced business travel with video calls on platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet. There are also diets and societal trends towards eating cleaner, which has resulted in an increase in plant-based meat and dairy companies. However, government action is necessary. Current changes are just not fast or effective enough to truly make a reduction in emissions.

Some ideas include taxes on unsustainable behaviors, such as on frequent flying or meat overconsumption, and government policies that punish behavior that pollutes and reward behavior that reduces pollution.


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