Is extravagance spoiling our air? – why the rich are so dirty

Is extravagance spoiling our air? – why the rich are so dirty – words Alan Woods

You can’t put a price on breathing fresh air, but it seems as though the world’s richest individuals are trying to turn pollution-free oxygen into a luxury item.

A recent study has shown that the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population produce about half of all carbon dioxide emissions. Just how literal a demonstration of ‘having money to burn’ do we need?

Being able to travel in style has always been a big element of the luxury lifestyle. Yachts, private jets and flashy cars burn more than a hole in one’s pocket. These are some of the chief fuel guzzling contributors behind our climate woes that are spoiling our air.


The bigger your income, the more pollutant your car

Kim Kardashian beats us on the proportion of most of the things in her life, her enormous monster truck of a car being a prime example. Sure, for the Kardashians, owning a huge car might just be a nominatively determined part of family life. But it seems the wealthy world is just as keen on giant vehicles. If they’re compensating for something it’s certainly not their carbon footprint.

A recent report from the DVLA shows that in London’s wealthiest areas, residents also drive the most gas gulping, CO2 belching cars. Sports cars and bloated SUVs fill the streets and driveways of Kensington and Chelsea, and are the principal reason that these affluent areas have the worst levels of pollution.

The correlation between wealth and car pollution has literally been mapped out by Esri UK. Unsurprisingly the City of London holds the unhappy title of being the “dirtiest” part of the country, and it’s going to take more than Boris-bikes to fix this.

London cruises could turn our air toxic

For the super rich and the over 60s, cruise ships appear to have an irresistible attraction. To the rest of us, however, they are essentially a fleet of luxury tanks. They stalk the seas, providing those on board with 24/7 buffets and crazy golf tournaments, all the while pummeling the ozone with poisonous emissions.

Causing irreparable damage to international waters is one thing, but now there’s now talk of the colossal cruiseliners invading London. Each ship is powered by an appropriately monstrous diesel engine which, if brought into the capital, would pump the already dirty air full of toxic nitrogen oxide and CO2. Every hour spent docked in Greenwich would burn 700 liters of fuel.

Understandably, residents are not too keen for the liners to remain for the planned six months; London and its ships would sink, Titanic-style, into a sea of smog. With a staggering 5.5 million premature deaths across the world caused by pollution, it’s the planet’s biggest silent killer – the iceberg right ahead.

Pollution from air travel skyrockets

What better way to show to the world you’re a high flyer than by soaring above it in a private jet? If only the answer to that question was “something a little greener”. Unfortunately, gas-guzzling jets are a go-to status symbol.

While some air charter companies are turning to biofuels to reduce their carbon footprint, aviation is a serious contributor to the world’s rising levels of air pollution. In Europe, this pollution is set to come close to doubling by 2035 due to ever increasing demand and expanding airports.

It’s unfair to say that only the rich use planes, but people on a higher income can afford to fly further afield and travel more frequently. As flights become cheaper, the blame gets shared across a wider demographic; however, until the top 1% forgo private air travel, they remain responsible for a disproportionate chunk of aviation pollution.

Rich households waste more energy

Even in their own houses, the wealthy are an environmental liability. The same areas guilty of harbouring giant cars and elevated air pollution – Kensington, Westminster – are also the worst for wasting energy. This mostly comes down to poor insulation in old, drafty homes which are among some of the most expensive houses in the country.

As it’s much easier for high-income families to replace unwanted or outdated items, it could be argued that the three Rs – recycling, reusing and reducing waste – are less of a priority. According to findings from London Councils, while areas like Bexley, which aren’t particularly affluent, recycle 54% of waste, comparatively affluent areas such as Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth and Wandsworth are recycling less than before.

Is extravagance spoiling our air? – why the rich are so dirty – words Alan Woods

spoiling our air



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