It’s not the impoverished billions, and it’s not the majority of American consumers, either.
The consequences of human-induced climate change are dire. Crop failures will increase. Severe weather and rising sea levels will wreak more havoc. Species are being wiped out by the hour–and the continued existence of our own is threatened.
Even without the threat of climate change, we live in a world of vast inequality, where the majority of the world’s population struggles to meet basic needs like putting food on the table–while corporations refuse to pay living wages, and decent health care and housing remain unaffordable for many, when there is access at all.
As of 2010, 2.4 billion people in the world were living on less than $2 a day–more than one-third of the world’s population. Close to 1 billion people live on less than a $1 a day on average. Nearly 870 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, according to UN standards–around one in every eight people on the planet.
The growing numbers and size of urban slums throughout the world have typified this poverty in the modern era. One-third of the global urban population lives in what are classified as slums–6 percent of the urban population in developed countries and a staggering 80 percent in developing countries. Most slum dwellers live without clean water or other infrastructure.
Yet some people would have us think that the growing ranks of the poor are the real source of environmental stress and food shortages, rather than demand from those who rule in the Global North.
This is simply not true. According to environmental writer Fred Pearce, the poorest 3 billion people are responsible for only 7 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases, while the richest 7 percent produce half of all emissions.
Clearly, the world’s poor are not driving climate change. Food shortages have more to do with the price of food, not its availability.