An alarming report released on Monday by the U.S. Global Change Research Program reveals that the country has been warming 68% faster than the entire planet. Frontline communities, many of whom the report notes are Indigenous, low-income, or marginalized, were found to be the most burdened by this escalation in global warming. “[They] experience harmful climate impacts first and worst, yet are often the least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change,” according to the draft report of the Fifth National Climate Assessment.
For both the U.S. and globally, those who are the most privileged tend to contribute the most severely to climate change, yet face few of its consequences. A recent Oxfam report also published Monday found that “the investments of 125 of the world’s richest billionaires shows that on average they are emitting 3 million tonnes a year, more than a million times the average for someone in the bottom 90% of humanity.” Unfortunately, the report itself doesn’t name those billionaires, but Forbes’ billionaire list sure does. More than a third of the top 125 richest billionaires hail from the U.S. The U.S. has 44 billionaires in the top 125—much more than any other country.
Billionaires pollute in all sorts of ways, not all of them as flashy as taking private jets or chartering yachts. Oxfam homed in on the fact that many of the world’s richest use their wealth to prop up sectors that are worsening the climate crisis rather than investing in more sustainable enterprises. “[Billionaires hold] an average of 14% of their investments in polluting industries, such as fossil fuels and materials like cement,” Oxfam noted. “This is twice the average for investments in the Standard and Poor 500 group of corporates. Only one billionaire in the sample had investments in a renewable energy company.”
Inequality is a crucial issue that must be addressed if the U.S.—and the entire world—are to reduce emissions and keep climate promises without seeing the worst effects of the climate crisis. How wealthy countries handle their responsibilities as major emitters has already factored heavily into what’s being considered and discussed at COP27, the U.N.’s annual climate change conference. Loss and damages payments are just one tool to use for a just transition eliminating fossil fuels. Clearly, billionaires can’t be relied on to similarly pay up for their misdeeds or divest from planet-killing industries.
Electing leaders who hold the richest accountable is one way to change that—especially considering the fact that the GOP is already eager to rip apart accountability measures in the making, such as fossil fuel divestments and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices. Being that today is the midterms, there’s still time and will be plenty of other opportunities to make sure the officials representing you truly have the U.S’ and the planet’s best interests at heart. Learn more about how to get out the vote with Daily Kos’ GOTV page.
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