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"Doing Your Bit for the Environment". Is the Everyday Person Really to Blame for Climate Change?

Jack Redman - February 2023

How climate pressures are shifting towards large corporations and the 1%

Large amounts of greenhouse gases being emitted from an industrial area
An example of the thousands of locations producing massive amounts of greenhouse gases

The real culprit of greenhouse gas emissions

Whilst it is almost certain that at one stage or another, we have been told by organisations or campaigners in some form that we need to ‘do our bit’ for the environment to combat global climate change. For example, properly sorting the recycling, bringing your own bags to the shops, cycling to work etc. Though of course this is somewhat crucial for combatting global climate change there is one overarching issue which seems to be glossed over by media and large corporations alike.

In terms of the average everyday user/consumer, their carbon footprint is virtually insignificant when compared to the huge corporations, despite them seeming to push this narrative of everyone ‘doing their bit’. In fact, when it comes down to making changes in order to benefit the overall state of greenhouse emissions and climate issues, just 100 or so companies seem to truly hold the key to tackling climate change in a significant way.

In a recent study conducted by the carbon Majors report it was found that generally companies responsible for the sale and distribution of fossil fuels were responsible for an alarming majority of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions, with the top 3 contributors consisting of: china (coal), Aramco and Gazprom contributing to nearly a quarter (22.73%) of all emissions as the end of 2015.

This alarming study is simply further evidence that there must be a shift of narrative towards increased pressures on fossil fuel companies as well as other major contributors in industrial greenhouse emissions in order for there to be any serious change in the direction of reduced climate change.

In terms of this narrative shift, it is also important to give attention to the idea of a aerate working people that they need to ‘do their bit’ and actually analyse whether this is really as necessary as it is stressed to be, particularly in terms of the damning evidence relating to fossil fuel companies and their hugely detrimental emission contributions.

How much impact is really the average person

In a study conducted by Paw-print eco companion, it was deduced that the average carbon footprint of an everyday person in the UK, per year, is 12.7 tonnes CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). Though at first glance, seeing ‘tonnes’ may make this figure appear inflated and significant it is actually relatively innocuous in terms of detriment to climate impact. In fact when comparing this to the carbon emissions to the wealthiest people in society this is amount of CO2 is virtually non existent.

To really contextualise this seemingly ignored issue, BBC Future conducted a statistical study which found that the rich are driving climate change far more than the average citizen within society. A prime example found within the study was Bill Gates, who was at one stage the wealthiest man on the plane. It was discovered that he had taken 59 flights in 2017, covering a distance of roughly 213,000 miles, enough to circle the world more than eight times, generating more than 1,600 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

To further solidify the seriousness of this seemingly unspoken issue, some statistical data found the the BBC’s study is as follows. The world’s wealthiest 10% were responsible for nearly half of global emissions in 2015, the top 1% were responsible for 15% of global emissions, which is nearly double the world’s poorest 50% who are only responsible for 7% of global emissions.

This damning evidence on the rich further coincides with the previously discussed point of industrial responsibility of fossil fuel companies as it will generally be the richest 1% running these companies, so it could almost be argued that they are one and the same in terms of climate change contributions.

So, after discussing and analysing these studies and their findings it is clear that there is a clear misallocation of pressure and emphasis on making change for the climate, as it is apparent that despite seeming to pay the price in everyday life and being told ‘do your bit’ it is not in fact the average everyday consumer that is impacting the climate, but the rich dwelling in the upper echelons of society, in addition to the huge corporations that they can be found to be running. Therefore, it is clear that there must be a shift in global focus not only on large organisation, but the ultra-wealthy business owners at the top of these corporate pyramids.


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