Target CO2 of the rich, study says

To limit global emissions, a study in the United States suggests, a uniform international cap should be set on how much carbon dioxide (CO2) each person could emit, Reuters reported. Rich people emit more, so are likely to reach or exceed this cap no matter where they live, according to the research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Since about half the planet’s climate-warming greenhouse-gas emissions come from less than one billion people of its people, the authors wrote, it makes sense to follow these rich people within countries when setting national emissions-reduction targets.

With international climate talks being held this week among the countries that pollute the most, the authors hope policymakers will look at the strong link between how wealthy people are and how much CO2 they emit. “You’re distributing the task of doing something about emissions reduction based on the proportion of the population in the country that’s actually doing the most damage,” said Shoibal Chakravarty of the Princeton Environment Institute, one of the study’s authors.

Rich people’s lives tend to mean more greenhouse gases because they drive more fossil-fueled vehicles, travel frequently by air and live in large houses that take more fuel to heat and cool. According to Chakravarty: “As countries develop — India, China, Brazil and others — over time, they’ll have more and more of these [wealthy] individuals and they’ll have a higher share of carbon reductions to do in the future.”

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