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World’s wealthiest at heart of climate problem?

April 15, 2021

By Paul Homewood


I want to return to the claim made yesterday by Roger Harrabin, that it is the world’s wealthy who are “at the heart of the climate problem”:



The world’s wealthy must radically change their lifestyles to tackle climate change, a report says.

It says the world’s wealthiest 1% produce double the combined carbon emissions of the poorest 50%, according to the UN.

The wealthiest 5% alone – the so-called “polluter elite” – contributed 37% of emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.


The implication is that without those wicked billionaires the climate “problem” would be nearly solved. Typical left wing demagoguery in other words.

Personally I do not give a toss how the rich live. It is their hypocrisy I object to, when they lecture the rest of us how to live.

For instance, a new analysis of the Royal family’s air travel has showed they have done more than enough in the last five years to get them to the moon and back, mostly by private jet. This may all be for official travel, but it is no good Prince Charles waving his arms around and claiming there is no alternative. If the rest of us are to drastically cut back our lifestyles, the Royals too will have to find a different way to perform their duties.


But just how much difference do these wealthy elite make? If they reduced their emissions, would it have any noticeable effect at all?

Take residential emissions, for instance, which account for 18% of the UK’s total emissions:




Most of these emissions arise from natural gas, as electricity is separately accounted for. Final gas consumption, that is excluding transformation into power, was 514 GWh in 2018, of which 309 GWh was residential. I believe there are roughly 20 million homes on the gas grid, meaning an average of 15000 KWh per household. This is similar to my gas consumption, and is regarded as being the norm for a typical semi.

Obviously the sort of houses the wealthy live in will use much more gas, just as smaller houses use less. But there are so few of them that they make little difference to the overall average. 

Or take transport as another example. Road transport accounts for 91% of total transport emissions. Lamborghinis may use more fuel than a Vauxhall Astra, but with 30 odd million cars on the road, the emissions from them would not even register in the overall figure.

Ah, but what about all of those private jets? Domestic aviation only accounts for less than 1% of UK emissions, and most of that will be on scheduled flights. International aviation contributes 2.5% to global emissions, and again the vast bulk of this will come from regular flights.

As for the other sectors, power, industry, agriculture and so on, emissions would carry on regardless, even if we shipped of every billionaire to live on Neckar Island!



It is all very well being envious of those wealthier than ourselves, but it rubs both ways. There are also millions poorer than ourselves. People in glasshouses, and all that!

What Harrabin is promoting is not just attacking the super rich. His policies will have no effect on them anyway, because they are rich enough to pay the price. But they will seriously impact the ordinary people of this country. When he talks of “wealthy”, this is who he really means.

  1. tom0mason permalink
    April 15, 2021 11:09 am

    It is all the usual playbook of the left — promote envy.
    A display of faux outrage and the “How dare they do that!” adolescent mentality of the left.
    They do because they can, they can because they are rich and powerful — get over it.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      April 15, 2021 11:37 am

      And, if we are honest with ourselves, we would probably do the same! Though hopefully we would be less hypocritical about it than Prince Charles or Emma Thompson or diCaprio!

      Several decades ago the target was people like the property-owning millionaire dukes — Westminster, Buccleuch, that crowd. Eventually somebody worked out that if you confiscated all their property and monetised it and distributed the result to the rest of us we would all end up getting 49p or some such paltry figure.

      Meanwhile, taking the Buccleuch Estates as an example, several thousand people would be out of a job.

      For all their claim to intellectual superiority the Left has never understood that you can do a lot more with a £1 million pound note than with a million £1 notes!

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        April 16, 2021 5:54 pm

        Delusional claim to intellectual superiority. Leftards.

  2. April 15, 2021 11:14 am

    So according to Harrabin about half of UK adults (as they are part of the world’s wealthiest 5% with a net wealth above £105k) will need to change their lifestyles.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      April 16, 2021 5:55 pm

      Dear Hairy Bin. The second word is OFF.

  3. Thomas Carr permalink
    April 15, 2021 11:15 am

    I hope that Tim Davie is on your mailing list for this one. If Harrabin has ‘tenure’ and is too expensive to sanction/censure that a counter view commentator ought to join the team.

  4. MrGrimNasty permalink
    April 15, 2021 11:32 am

    With all the current uproar over lobbying and revolving doors and conflicts of/vested interests – isn’t it astonishing no one has mentioned the most shocking area!


  5. Alan Haile permalink
    April 15, 2021 11:38 am

    Personally I don’t care what ’emissions’ anyone makes because it makes no difference to anything.

  6. StephenP permalink
    April 15, 2021 12:00 pm

    We are continually told by the activists that in the UK we must flagelate ourselves to set a good example to the rest of the world.
    Most of the rest of the world doesn’t care a fig about reducing CO2, they just want a decent life with a more comfortable lifestyle.
    The elite, with their sense of entitlement, continue to set their bad example. This is what tees people off.

    • StephenP permalink
      April 15, 2021 12:03 pm

      There is a good old English expression for such people, they are a load of ‘humbugs’.

  7. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 15, 2021 12:00 pm

    The BBC seems to be in the habit of picking some very inadequate experts to cite. Here’s Oxfam on the UK situation

    The claim is our richest 1% emit six times the average per capita, and therefore account for about 6% of total emissions, while the poorest 50% emit 6/11ths of the average or just over 27% of the total.

    Having identified the underlying culprit I found this

    The research is based on estimations of consumption emissions from fossil fuels i.e. emissions consumed within a country including emissions embodied in imports and excluding emissions embodied in exports. National consumption emissions were divided between individual households based on the latest income distribution datasets and a functional relationship between emissions and income. This assumes, on the basis of numerous studies, that emissions rise in proportion to income above a minimum emissions floor and until a maximum emissions ceiling. National household consumption emissions estimates – for 117 countries from 1990 to 2015 – are then sorted into a global distribution according to income. More details on the methodology is available in the research report.

    It’s models all the way down. Problematic ones at that.

  8. April 15, 2021 12:47 pm

    Surely George Soros, not short of twenty billion or two, is joining in the decarbonization game,
    though GOK with what motive.
    Cannot just be mischief-making.

  9. Colin MacDonald permalink
    April 15, 2021 1:11 pm

    No doubt the report assumes that carbon footprint has a one to one correlation with net worth. Well could be, but taking Jeff Bezos as an example,he occupies around 100 times more sq footage than me, but has a net worth around a million times higher. He probably consumes fewer calories than me. And if I was flying about the average 5 hours a year to the Costas and back, well even Jeff can’t fly more than 9000 hours a year, chances are he’s flying no more than 1000, albeit in a private jet. I’d say Jeff’s carbon emissions are at most a thousand times higher than mine, eg I get about 1000 times more bang for my bucks than he does.
    And, not to punch down, but examining the emissions of the poor ; a copper of my acquaintance says the defining characteristics of the houses of the underclass he visits are the huge flat screen TVs blasting at max volume, and the central heating going full blast, all paid for by poor working saps through their taxes.

  10. David Allan permalink
    April 15, 2021 1:44 pm

    Of course, Horrorbin is well qualified in climatology and meteorology……………isn’t he???

  11. Andrew Harding permalink
    April 15, 2021 2:07 pm

    I am old enough to remember the most Left wing UK government we have ever had. The Wilson and Callaghan Labour governments of the 60’s and 70’s. Apart from a brief respite with a Heath led Conservative government the torment continued from 1964 to 1979.

    Taxation soared for the richest with a 97.5% tax on unearned income, predictably investment plummeted. Trade Unions dictated government policy, which of course led to higher taxes and a top rate of tax of 60% for those who had the drive and knowledge to run a business and as a consequence employ staff. Successful companies were nationalised which removed their success. British Telecom, British Steel and British Leyland were the worst examples of this policy.

    The result was the “brain drain”, rather than pay sky high taxes, high earners emigrated to countries where taxes were fairer. Of course their skills and money went with them. The UK was on the verge of bankruptcy and had to borrow money from the IMF to stay afloat. Inflation was 14%, there were strikes, power cuts the dead were unburied. It was horrendous!

    Finally we got a government that was competent and the situation reversed. Harrabin and the Left want a repeat performance, governance based on envy does not work, it never has and it never will!

    After the 1979 general election when the Conservatives formed a government, one of the first actions was to stimulate the economy by reducing the top rate of income tax from 60% to 40%, revenue actually increased as did productivity.

    We must not repeat these mistakes, which we will if energy becomes disproportionately expensive, unreliable and not readily available.

  12. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 15, 2021 2:22 pm

    The world’s wealthiest seem to be at the heart of inventing the “climate problem”. Their solutions seem to entail impoverishing us.

  13. Aaron Halliwell permalink
    April 15, 2021 3:24 pm

    It’s the same story as income tax isn’t it? The only way to raise a lot of money is to tax a lot of people, not try and get it all from billionaires.

    Similarly the only way to affect the level of emissions is to stop a lot of people keeping warm, driving around and eating Brazilian burgers!

  14. April 15, 2021 5:08 pm

    If they’re so wealthy, they can afford at least an audiobook version of Atlas Shrugged. With that they might learn not to be the useful idiots of Ecological National Socialism.

  15. April 15, 2021 5:37 pm

    Concentrating on CO2 emissions is a pure farce.
    95% + of CO2 emissions are by nature, less than 4% are human.
    57% are out-gassed by warm tropical oceans. Decaying vegetation emits bundles each winter. Animals emit 20X human emissions.

    Latest science opinion is that CO2 has a minute cooling effect via convection.
    Book: The Dragon Slayers Victory Lap, by Dr. Tim Ball et al.
    He co-founded this site dedicated to truth in science:

    Concentrating on CO2 emissions is drinking the kool-aid.
    John Doran.

  16. April 15, 2021 5:46 pm

    Ironically Roger Horrorbin is correct: the 1%s are responsible for the climate scam, they are funding it.

    Names are named in climatologist Dr. Tim Ball’s great little handbook for the layman, & motives also, in only 121 well illustrated pages:
    Human Caused Global Warming The Biggest Deception In History.
    John Doran.

  17. April 17, 2021 1:03 pm

    “The wealthiest 5% alone – the so-called “polluter elite” – contributed 37% of emissions growth between 1990 and 2015”

    It doesn’t really matter who is to blame. The real issue here is that the climate action game is over for here in the 11th hour after all those billions spent on renewable energy, we are not talking about how fast emissions are going down but about who is to blame for how fast they’re going up.

  18. MikeHig permalink
    April 17, 2021 10:35 pm

    Shouldn’t that figure for annual gas consumption be TWh, not GWh?
    Secondly, if it is TWh, the figure seems a bit low at less than twice the consumption of electricity (about 350 GWh, iirc).
    Or have I got the numbers wrong….not for the first time :).

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