Climate change: How the rich can help save the planet

Climate change: How the rich can help save the planet

The more things you own, the more you travel, the more burning fossil fuels, and the more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere.

Navigate, buy luxury goods, keep warm in mansions and drive super cars – all have a carbon footprint.

But some argue that the wealthy can do their best to help fix the climate crisis. Here’s how they can make a difference.

Spend wisely

Buying decisions for the wealthy mean much more to fighting climate change than most people make.

Ilona Otto and her colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research appreciate The typical “super-rich” two-person family (which they knew had more than $ 1 million in net assets, excluding their main home) has a carbon footprint of 129 tons of carbon dioxide annually. That’s about 65 tons of carbon dioxide a year per person, which is more than 10 times the global average.

Otto noted that since the sample in the study was small, the numbers are illustrative. “Perhaps our estimates are less than the real emissions of millionaires,” she said.

“As for their lifestyle choices, the rich can change a lot,” Otto said. “For example, putting solar panels on their rooftops. They can also buy electric cars, preferably if they avoid flying.”

In the study, air travel represented more than half the fingerprint of a wealthy couple.

The rich also have more flexibility to make changes.

“It is likely that the high-income consumer is able to reach and is able to withstand more climate-friendly products or products from local farmers,” said Tom Bailey, who contributed to a new project. Transfer That highlights consumption in high-income cities.

“High-income cities and high-income individuals also have the resources to experiment with new products, services and solutions,” he said, adding that they have the potential to create a market for more sustainable goods.


In addition to choosing what to spend money on, the rich can choose which industries to invest in – or not to invest in.

Oxfam Estimates That the number of billionaires on the Forbes list who have commercial interests in the fossil fuel sector increased from 54 in 2010 to 88 in 2015, and the size of their wealth expanded from more than 200 billion dollars to more than 300 billion dollars.
Steam rise from a coal-fired power plant in Germany.

But there is a trend for wealthy investors selling their shares in weather-damaging industries, known as divestments.

More than 1,100 organizations and 59,000 individuals, totaling $ 8.8 trillion, pledged to eliminate fossil fuels through online traffic. DivestInvest.
Among them is a Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprioWho signed a pledge on behalf of himself and his environment Establishment – As well as a group of 22 wealthy people from the Netherlands who Pledge To remove their personal fortune from the 200 largest oil, gas and coal companies.

Otto said: “You do not invest in coal, do not invest in oil and gas, and also in some car companies that produce ordinary cars, or aviation, so you manage financial flows.”

With investment withdrawing, little can go a long way. Otto said: “We have done some simulations that show that with the filter movement, you don’t need everyone to filter.” “If the minority of investors retracts, then other investors will not invest in these fossil fuel assets because they will be afraid of losing money … even if they have no environmental concerns.”

Wealth means strength

The wealthy are not only economic decision makers, they can also have political influence. They can fund political parties and campaigns and reach lawmakers.

There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point since humans evolved

Otto argued that the rich could use their political power to incite positive changes in climate policy.

“The people with the highest emissions, have the highest agency to change something,” Otto said. “There is a lot of research on the poor and the impact of climate change on the poor … the sustainable development goals and so on. But when it comes to work, sustainability and transformation, the poor cannot do anything because they are busy for survival.

“But the educated, the rich and the rich – it’s a completely different situation. They have the money and resources to work and they also have social networks,” she explained.

Climate Research Funding

The wealthy can also support climate research. In 2015, Microsoft founder Bill Gates pledged $ 2 billion of his fortune to fund clean energy research and development.

Can coral farms save coral reefs?
In May a group of scholars Wrote To 100 charities and wealthy families in the UK to request an “extraordinary increase” in funding for environmental and climate issues.

The letter said: “We appeal to you to urgently consider major investments to prevent more environmental disasters – whether through your personal investments or your charitable works.”

There are many incentives for the wealthy to demand climate action: A recent United Nations report has warned that delaying climate policies will cost the world’s largest companies $ 1.2 trillion over the next 15 years.


The wealthy also may have an impact on other carbon emissions.

Otto said: “The high position in our societies is still associated with high material wealth.” “It is my ambition to become very rich like you imitate the lifestyles of people you want to be like.”

For example, air travel is no longer just a treatment for the wealthy. This year, Ryanair, the budget airline, was the only non-coal plant among the top 10 emitters in Europe.

Ryanair is among the largest greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, according to European Union data. The classifications include power plants, manufacturing plants, and aviation.
“As a society, we must search for new ways to lead a” rich “life independent of material wealth,” said Stephanie Moser of the University of Bern in Switzerland. have found A person’s carbon footprint is better indicated by their income than their environmental beliefs.

“We have to redefine wealth in our societies so that a” good life “is possible without high greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

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