A study, published in Nature Energy, has claimed that rich people are primarily to be blamed for the global climate crisis.
Researchers from the University of Leeds found that the wealthiest tenth of people consume roughly 20 times more energy than the bottom ten, wherever they live.
The researchers said that the gulf is greatest in transport, where the top tenth consume 187 times more fuel than the poorest tenth. They explained that people with low socioeconomic status can barely afford to drive.
Typically, the richer people use more energy across all countries.
The researchers warned that household energy consumption could increase two times from 2011 to 2050 unless there is a significant change in policy.
The study found that the richest tenth of consumers use more than half the energy in transport, reflecting previous research finding that 15 percent of UK travelers take 70 percent of all flights. It also showed that energy for heating and cooking is more equitably consumed.
Lead study author Prof. Julia Steinberger asked, “How can we change the vastly unequal distribution of energy to provide a decent life for everyone while protecting the climate and ecosystems?”
The researchers said governments could take necessary steps to deal with climate change, such as reducing transport demand through better public transport and imposing higher taxes on bigger vehicles.
They explained another alternative is to start manufacturing electric vehicles more quickly.
However, Prof. Kevin Anderson, who was not part of the study, told BBC News, “This study tells relatively wealthy people like us what we don’t want to hear. The climate issue is framed by us high emitters – the politicians, business people, journalists, academics. When we say there’s no appetite for higher taxes on flying, we mean WE don’t want to fly less.”
“The same is true about our cars and the size of our homes,” he added. “We have convinced ourselves that our lives are normal, yet the numbers tell a very different story.”
The study also said that transport energy alone could increase to more than 30 percent by 2050. The authors wrote, “If transport continues to rely on fossil fuels, this increase would be disastrous for the climate.”
The findings suggest different treatments for different types of energy use. So, flying and driving could face higher taxes.