A new study that analysed US household income data over the last three decades found that the bottom 90 per cent of households’ share of emissions has fallen, while the top 10 per cent’s share has increased.
The wealthiest 10 per cent are the source of 40 per cent of US national greenhouse gas emissions, according to research published in the journal PLOS Climate on 17 August 2023.
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Researchers, led by Jared Starr of the University of Massachusetts, analysed emissions associated with businesses owned by the households they analysed and also factored in revenues relating to their investments. For the top 10 per cent, investment income makes up a large share of those households’ emissions – between 38 per cent and 42 per cent in the case of the wealthiest 10 per cent.
The researchers also found that the wealthiest 1 per cent of households were responsible for between 15 per cent and 17 per cent of national emissions.
69,700 of the wealthiest households – representing 55% of the top 0.1% – were what the researchers dubbed “super emitters,” or those responsible for more than 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per year. They had average incomes in 2019 of between $10.6 million and $11.5.
“While super emitting households can also be employed in any sector of the economy, they are markedly overrepresented in finance, real estate, and insurance; manufacturing; mining and quarrying; and services,” the study authors wrote.
The results indicate that policymakers may have been looking at potential carbon taxes and their structure from the wrong angle.
Simply measuring according to consumption gives a misleading picture of who is responsible for the bulk of emissions, Starr said, and any tax on carbon that is consumption-based would reflect that.
“Consumer-facing carbon taxes would hit poor Americans hardest because the emissions intensity of their purchases tends to be higher than higher-income groups because they’re buying things related to necessities,” whereas upper-income groups tend to be based around services, he said.
“These low-income groups basically spend all that comes in, whereas as you move up the income ladder, the higher-income groups have really high savings rates, [and] money that they save or re-invest are not reflected in consumer-facing carbon taxes,” he added.
“Results suggest an alternative income or shareholder-based carbon tax, focused on investments, may have equity advantages over traditional consumer-facing cap-and-trade or carbon tax options,” the researchers wrote while acknowledging that this would likely face pushback from the disproportionate amount of the wealthiest Americans in politics.
As Marc Morano tweeted:
Read more: 40 percent of US climate emissions attributed to richest households, The Hill, 17 August 2023
Featured image: John Kerry said it was a “persistent lie” that he owned a private plane – before later clarifying that it was his wife who owned a jet. Source: New York Post
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