The massive schism between the world's wealthiest and the world's poorest has grown even further, and not just economically.
Disturbing new research from Oxfam, an anti-poverty organization, asserts that the world's wealthiest 10 percent are responsible for 50 percent of all carbon emissions. Sadly, the world's poorest 10 percent -- whose carbon "footprint" is barely a silhouette -- are feeling the consequences most.
According to Oxfam's report, "the richest 10 percent of people around the world," have "average carbon footprints 11 times as high as the poorest half of the population, and 60 times as high as the poorest 10 percent. The average footprint of the richest 1 [percent] of people globally could be 175 times that of the poorest 10 percent."
Oxfam attributes the inequality in carbon emissions to "lifestyle consumption emissions," which can differ drastically from country to country. "The poorest people on the planet are not only least responsible for causing climate change, they also tend to be the most vulnerable to its consequences and least prepared to cope," the report said, adding that women, rural communities and "groups marginalized because of race, ethnicity" are disproportionally affected.
There are very real effects -- and people -- behind these numbers: "Climate change is inextricably linked to economic inequality," the report said. "It is a crisis that is driven by the greenhouse gas emissions of the 'haves' that hits the ‘have-nots’ the hardest."
Currently, world leaders are gathered in Paris discussing humanity's role in climate change. Now is the perfect time to address the relationship between class and carbon emissions, and what can be done to catalyze change.
"While the richest citizens can and should contribute as individuals to cutting their own emissions through lifestyle changes, wherever they live, they cannot solve the climate crisis through voluntary action alone," the Oxfam report said. "Their choices are often constrained by the decisions of their governments in all sorts of areas, from energy to transport policy.