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Apr 08, 2017 07:39 AM EDT

Boston College Researchers Find Link Between Income Inequality And Carbon Emissions

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A study by two Boston College researchers found that carbon emissions rise as rich people got wealthier. They found that pollution was higher in U.S. states where income is more concentrated among the wealthiest residents.

A lot of research has been done on the connection between national wealth and carbon emissions. The study conducted by Boston College sociologists Andrew Jorgenson and Juliet Schor is the first to establish a link between income inequality and carbon emissions within and across the United States.

In a press release on Boston College's official website, it was reported that income share of the top 10 percent of a state's population was positively associated with state-level emissions between 1997 and 2012. The findings were published online in the journal "Ecological Economics."

The researchers used 2012 state data for carbon emissions. It was found that a one percent increase in the income share of the top 10 percent of a state's population resulted in additional annual carbon emissions.

Texas had the highest carbon emissions with 812,325 to 934,174 metric tons. It is followed by California with 437,035 to 502,590 metric tons and Pennsylvania with 284,980 to 327.728 metric tons. Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, New York and Michigan completed the top 10 list.

In the analysis, South Carolina was the median with income share growth adding 89,175 to 102,551 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2012. The District of Columbia got the lowest growth in carbon emissions with a rise of 3,251 to 3,738 metric tons for each one percent increase in wealth.

The findings can be used as more and more states are taking the lead in their own environmental protection. Jorgenson said that they see environmental policy and action as much more active at the state level than the federal level.

It was also noted that spending power drives carbon-intensive consumerism. Moreover, political clout and economic power of the wealthiest individuals also play a major role in the increase of carbon emissions per state.

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