Rae Paoletta is a “dreamer, news junkie, knowledge sponge” who is some type of writer or journalist for MTV. She also Tweets as @MTVIssues where “We tell stories that are changing the world and we just have a lot of feelings.” Her boss, Sumner Redstone, the controlling shareholder in MTV’s parent Viacom, is Super Rich. His net worth is estimated at $5.3 billion. In fact, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, thought to be worth $200 million, is also super rich. A quick search of Google looking for what the definition of “Super Rich” is would yield a multitude of answers from having an annual household income of exceeding $9.5 million or a net worth or $30 million, or even $50 million or more.
What caught my eye about Paoletta was an article she wrote for MTV.com, “Super Rich People Are Responsible For Half The World’s Carbon Emissions.”
Just reading the headline, it didn’t sound right. After all of the various estimates of Super Rich global population, the most generous, by Wealth-X, reports a mere 211,000 households worldwide with a net worth of $30 million or more. That equates to under one million people who are part of Super Rich households.
It only took getting to the second paragraph to see where journalistically Paoletta or or whomever wrote the headline made their mistake. “Disturbing new research from Oxfam, an anti-poverty organization, asserts the world’s wealthiest 10 percent are responsible for 50 percent of all carbon emissions,” she wrote.
Quick math shows 10 percent of the world’s 7.2 billion population equates to some 720 million people, of which the Super Rich make up approximately one million. The article also mentions the footprint of the richest one percent “could be 175 times that of the poorest 10 percent.” For continued clarity, one percent of 7.2 billion is 72 million. Again, the Super Rich total around one million. In fact, there only 16 million people worldwide who are single digit millionaires (out of the 720 million people who account for 50 percent of carbon emissions).
Paoletta concludes for her readers, “Currently, world leaders are gathered in Paris discussing humanity’s role in climate change. Now is the perfect time to address the relationship between class and carbon emissions, and what can be done to catalyze the change.”
A bit deeper look at the Oxfam statistics would have revealed the wealthiest 20 percent of the world’s population, about 1.44 billion people, accounts for nearly 70 percent of all emissions. My guess is that includes a good chunk of the MTV.com audience.
Perhaps a more relevant focus for Paoletta is what she and her peers can do. Of course the Super Rich or Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW), whichever label you want to use, should be conservation minded as well. But let’s start with facts. The under one million Super Rich do not produce half of the world’s carbon emissions. Headlines like the one in Paoletta’s story only create a wider divide and make critical issues harder solve. And I do really miss the days when MTV actually played music.