The more stuff you own, and the more you travel, the more fossils fuels are burned, and the more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere.
Jetting around, buying luxury goods, keeping mansions warm and driving supercars — they all have a carbon footprint.
Oxfam has estimated that the average carbon footprint of someone in the world’s richest 1% could be 175 times that of someone in the poorest 10%. Studies also show that the poor suffer the most from climate change.
Read: While the rich world braces for future climate change, the poor world is already being devastated by it
But some argue that the wealthy can do the most to help fix the climate crisis. Here’s how they could make a difference.
The buying decisions of the rich mean much more in the fight against climate change than those of most people.
Ilona Otto and her colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research estimated that the typical “super-rich” household of two people (which they defined as having net assets of more than $1 million, excluding their main home) has a carbon footprint of 129 tons of CO2 a year. That’s around 65 tons of CO2 a year per person, which is over 10 times the global average.
Otto noted that because the sample in the study was small, the numbers are illustrative. “Probably our estimates are even lower than the true emissions of millionaires,” she said.
“Regarding their own lifestyle choices, the rich can change a lot,” said Otto. “For instance, putting solar panels on the roofs of their houses. They can also afford electric cars and the best would be if they avoided flying.”
In the study, air travel accounted for more than half of the footprint of a super-rich couple.