The wealthiest tenth of U.S. households are the source of 40 percent of national greenhouse gas emissions, according to research published in the journal PLOS Climate.
Researchers, led by Jared Starr of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, analyzed three decades of household income data from 1990 to 2019.
They found that during this period, the bottom 90 percent of households’ share of emissions has fallen, while the top 10 percent’s share has increased. The wealthiest 1 percent of households were responsible for between 15 percent and 17 percent of emissions.
Starr and colleagues analyzed emissions associated with businesses owned by the households they analyzed, but also factored in revenues relating to their investments. For the top 10 percent, investment income makes up a large share of those households’ emissions — between 38 percent and 42 percent in the case of the wealthiest 10 percent.
“The investment piece makes up an increasing share of the emissions responsibility as we look further up the income ladder,” Starr told The Hill in an interview.
Just over 43,000 of the wealthiest 0.1 percent of households — 34 percent — were what the researchers dubbed “super emitters,” or those responsible for more than 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per year. They also found wide racial disparities in responsibility for emissions, with non-Hispanic white households comprising the highest income-linked emissions and Black households comprising the lowest.