“Looked all around the world,
We’ve gotta take care of each other.
Do what you need to do,
Without making others suffer.”

We Sell Hope by The Specials

Do you like numbers? We like numbers, but we don’t like what the numbers are telling us. Never mind inconvenient, these numbers are embarrassing. Shocking, even.

Here’s one we hear a lot. That it doesn’t matter what we do in Britain because we’re a drop in the (inconveniently rising and more turbulent) ocean compared to other countries with 10 or 20 times more people than us.

No. It’s not working out like that. We are the heavyweights in this fight. The profound inequality in our world means that even those of us living average lives are global carbon millionaires.

Oxfam have done the numbers (get the numbers). Between 1990 and 2015:

  • The world’s richest 10% (about 630 million people) caused 52% of the world’s carbon.
  • The world’s poorest 50% (about 3100 million people) caused just 7% of the world’s carbon.
  • In fact, the richest 1% (about 63 million people) on their own caused twice as much carbon as the poorest 50% of the world.
  • And their carbon is rising three times faster than that of the poorest 50%.

Even if the other 90% of the world dropped their carbon to zero straightaway, the richest 10% would on their own use up the world’s remaining carbon allowance by the mid 2030s. And that 10% includes most of us. Do your carbon footprint. For the poorest half of the world, it averages 1 tonne (get the numbers). What’s yours?

I really don’t feel like one of that 10%

And a lot of us live in horrible circumstances – we have food banks, child poverty, zero hours contracts and crippling rents – but all of us have got far more influence on some of the richest and most wasteful people and businesses in the world than any number of people in poorer countries, even if all we can do is vote or buy potatoes and petrol.

The average UK wage in 2021 was £26,193 a year (numbers), which puts the average Brit in the global top 4.4%, earning 11 times the global middle wage (numbers).

If you’re an airline pilot, dentist, doctor, sales director, or solicitor – you are in that top 1%. Accountants, bricklayers, police officers – you’re top 3%. Bus drivers, carers, paramedics, web designers – you’re still in the top 6%.

Even nannies, teaching assistants, and vets receptionists, you’re in the top 8%.

This is our mess – it’s fair that we clean it up.


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