A certain section in the World Inequality Report has gone viral and disrupted the internet. It talked about how the carbon footprint of a short space joyride caused a lifetime’s worth of emissions for the world’s poorest. This clearly showed that there is an unequal distribution between those who cause climate damage and those who suffer from it.
The space travel giants not actually named in the report are Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Musk’s SpaceX has been launching rockets, while Bezos’ Blue Origin has arranged three space tourism flights so far.
A few viral posts misinterpreted what the passage in the report was saying, so to set the record straight, this is what that section said:
“An 11-minute flight emits no fewer than 75 tonnes of carbon per passenger once indirect emissions are taken into account (and more likely, in the 250-1,000 tonnes range). At the other end of the distribution, about one billion individuals emit less than one tonne per person per year. Over their lifetime, this group of one billion individuals does not emit more than 75 tonnes of carbon per person.”
The company Blue Origin makes the fuel that is supposed to be carbon emission-free but the process through which the fuel is made is quite carbon-intensive. The report shows that the carbon cost of a few minutes of weightlessness equals the lifetime carbon output of an individual in the bottom billion.
People who will be able to afford space travel will not be the ones experiencing the horrible effects of climate change. After returning to Earth, Bezos said that he realized we have “one planet, and we share it and it’s fragile.”
The report also noted that the top 1% wealthiest individuals emit about 110 tons of carbon emissions per year, an extreme number dwarf by the top .1% (467 tons) and the top .01% (2,530 tons).
This means that the affluent people will always be the ones causing the damage and the poor countries will face the consequences.
Blue Origin’s next flight is planned for Saturday when the football player-turned-talk show host Michael Strahan will climb aboard a rocket alongside four paying customers.