, 20 tweets, 5 min read
I keep seeing people share this graph, always with some commentary to the tune of "See? We're not the ones causing global warming, it's the billionaires with their multiple yachts!"

This is a complete misinterpretation of what this graph means, and it's massively harmful.
Before I get started, here's the disclaimer that you will all inevitably skip over in your hurry to chew me out:

Yes, billionaires suck! Yes, they are huge contributors to climate change! By all means, fire them into the sun!

But let's get back to the graph.
First off, who made this graph?

It's from an Oxfam presentation at the Paris summit. Oxfam was talking about GLOBAL wealth. They were saying that the richest COUNTRIES contribute the most to climate change, while the poorest countries suffer the most.

So if you are a middle-class American and you look at this graph and say "See? Climate change isn't my fault!", that's the literal opposite of what the Oxfam report is saying.
Let's look at that top bar of the chart again. It's the richest 10% of GLOBAL population. That's 770 MILLION people--a number greater than the population of Europe.

There are about 14 million millionaires in the world. The other 755 million people? They're us.
According to the Oxfam report (see footnote 15), 70% of the US population falls into the richest 10%.

That's not just the American upper class, but the entire middle and lower-middle class, too--everyone with a household income of over $35,000.

That's me. And you and you and...
Let's look at another graph from the Oxfam report. This shows per-capita emissions.

The first thing that jumps out at you is that huge bar representing the American rich, and yes, they should absolutely be held to account!
But look at what else this graph shows. An average American pollutes as much as the richest people in France or Japan. Even the poorest Americans pollute far more than the richest people in China and India.
From the report: The richest people in India have a carbon footprint 1/4 the size of the poorest people in America, while the poorest people in India have a carbon footprint 1/20 the size.
Here's the same data presented as total emissions rather than per-capita emissions.

The American rich are an enormous contributor, and they absolutely must make drastic cutbacks immediately.
But the US poor have an almost equally large share. There are more of them, so it's divided more ways, but it's certainly not only the rich who are contributing significantly to pollution.

The US middle class isn't shown, but if they were, their bar would be larger still.
And bear in mind, that green bar is still a full 10% of the US population--about 33 million people.

That's everyone with an income over 180k. Rich, certainly--by global standards, obscenely rich--but not shooting-cars-into-space rich.
This matters because "It's not us, it's the billionaires!" serves as a smokescreen for these people, too. They, like us, can look at Jeff Bezos and go "Well, I don't own multiple yachts, so obviously I'm not the problem!"
Another problem: Even if we did fire the top 10% into the sun (again, 770 MILLION people), that's only 50% of emissions. To survive, we need to cut emissions more like 80%.

Which means we all need to be all the way down here.
Here's another way to think about this data. There are about 1 billion cars in the world. That puts car ownership in the ballpark of 10%.

So the graph is partly just measuring that cars are an ecological disaster--not people with multiple Lamborghinis, but ALL car owners.
You know that thing where rich people don't think they're rich because they all know someone richer than them?

That's what's going on here, but globally. We, the American middle class, see Jeff Bezos and conclude that we can't possibly be rich.

You're going to say "But I have no choice about my lifestyle!"

That may be true. But that doesn't change the harm it causes.

Denying that your lifestyle causes harm because you can't change it is, well, denialism.
For the planet to survive, the US rich will have to experience huge lifestyle reductions.

The US middle class will have to experience huge lifestyle reductions.

The US poor will have to experience huge lifestyle reductions.
That doesn't mean that you, yourself, have to singlehandedly spearhead these lifestyle changes. But one way or another, they need to happen. To ALL of us.

THAT is what this graph is saying.

Thank you for listening. Here's a butterfly.
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