The richest 1% pollute more than the poorest 50%

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The world’s population already uses the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to maintain the current way of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS
  • by Baher Kamal (Madrid
  • Inter Press Service

For this purpose, the following account of some of the key facts and figures successively provided by the world’s largest multinational organization – the United Nations – should be enough to complete the picture.

For this purpose, the following account of some of the key facts and figures successively provided by the world’s largest multinational organization – the United Nations – should be enough to complete the picture.

To start with, the richest 1% of the world’s population is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the poorest 50%.

In contrast, in the specific case of Africa – 54 countries with 1.4 billion people – it causes a negligible 2% to 3% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, but is the victim of more than 80% of the world’s climate catastrophes.

Meanwhile, in high-income countries, the material footprint per capita — the amount of primary materials needed to meet the world’s needs — is more than 10 times greater than in low-income countries.

And the Group of 20 Major Economies (G20) is responsible for 78% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Now see some key examples:

Fashion

Fashion is one of the most demanded and consumed fashions in the high-income countries.

The fashion industry (clothing and shoes) annually produces more than 8% of the greenhouse gases and 20% of the global wastewater.

Example: It takes about 7,500 liters of water to make a single pair of jeans — from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the finished product to the store.

And 85% of the textile ends up in landfills or is incinerated; so much so that every second the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles is dumped or incinerated.

In addition, the fashion industry uses about 93 billion cubic meters of water every year – enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.

Swallowing the Earth’s Resources

Current demand for natural resources is unprecedented and continues to grow – for food, clothing, water, housing, infrastructure and other aspects of life, the UN reports.

In particular, the extraction and processing of materials, fuels and food contribute to half of total global greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress.

In short, resource extraction has more than tripled since 1970, including a 45% increase in fossil fuel use.

Fossil fuels

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector alone have more than doubled since 1970, with about 80% of this increase coming from road vehicles.

Currently, the transport sector is almost completely dependent on fossil fuels. It is responsible for about a quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Despite this, politicians continue to subsidize fossil fuels at $6 to $7 trillion a year.

Food

Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted worldwide, which is 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption.

Food losses are a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing greenhouse gas emissions in vain, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) further reports.

Water

Less than 3% of the world’s water is fresh (potable), 2.5% of which is frozen in Antarctica, the Arctic and glaciers. And people abuse and pollute water faster than nature can recycle and purify the water in rivers and lakes.

With one shower of about 10 minutes per day, an average person consumes the equivalent of more than 100,000 glasses of drinking water per year.

Severe water scarcity affects about 4 billion people, or nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, for at least one month each year.

Waste

An estimated 11.2 billion tons of solid waste is collected worldwide every year, and the decay of the organic proportion of solid waste contributes to about 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Where waste cannot be avoided, recycling leads to significant resource savings. For every ton of recycled paper, 17 trees and 50% water can be saved.

Recycling also creates jobs: In Brazil, China and the United States alone, the recycling sector employs 12 million people. However, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. About 12% has been burned, while the rest – 79% – has accumulated in landfills, landfills or in the natural environment.

One million plastic drinking bottles are bought around the world every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once – and then thrown away.

From 2010 to 2019, e-waste produced worldwide grew from 5.3 to 7.3 kilograms per capita per year. Meanwhile, the environmentally friendly recycling of e-waste increased at a much slower pace – from 0.8 to 1.3 kilograms per capita per year.

Conclusion

In short, the world’s population already uses the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to maintain the current way of life.

But the fact is, ecosystems can’t keep up with such a question. So if the world continues to consume resources at the rate it is doing now, at least five Earths would be needed.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service



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