Billionaires Are the Leading Cause of Climate Change

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This week, the United Nations released a damning report. The short version: We have about 12 years to actually do something to prevent the worst aspects of climate change. That is, not to prevent climate change—we’re well past that point—but to prevent the worst, most catastrophic elements of it from wreaking havoc on the world’s population. To do that, the governments of Earth need to look seriously at the forces driving it. And an honest assessment of how we got here lays the blame squarely at the feet of the 1 percent.

Contrary to a lot of guilt-tripping pleas for us all to take the bus more often to save the world, your individual choices are probably doing very little to the world’s climate. The real impact comes on the industrial level, as more than 70 percent of global emissions come from just 100 companies. So you, a random American consumer, exert very little pressure here. The people who are actively cranking up the global thermostat and threatening to drown 20 percent of the global population are the billionaires in the boardrooms of these companies.

There are probably no individuals who have had a more toxic impact on public and political attitudes about climate change than the Koch brothers, and it would take an absurd amount of space to document all the money and organizations they’ve scraped together for that purpose. (Investigative reporter Jane Mayer’s groundbreaking Dark Money does basically that.) And they have every reason to: In her book, Mayer notes that “Koch Industries alone routinely released some 24 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year.”

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