An Unequal World: Can We Achieve Equality?

6 minute read

Updated on: 03 Dec 2020

We live in an unequal world .

In 2018, the 26 richest individuals in the world owned the same amount as the poorest 50% of humans .

Image of We live in a very unequal world

We live in a very unequal world

Climate change is set to make global inequalities even worse .

So far, the richest countries, such as the USA and European countries, have contributed the most to climate change from using fossil fuels .

Despite this, the current impacts of climate change are worse in African countries . This pattern is expected to continue : people who are already poorer will be most impacted by climate change , even though they are the least to blame for it .

This course looks at how we can reduce poverty, health inequality and gender inequality, as well as improving education, while combating climate change at the same time .

Image of 4 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

4 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Let’s start with reducing poverty and improving education.

What is poverty?

In 2015, 1 in every 10 people were living in extreme poverty - surviving on less than $1.90 per day . Poverty can mean other things too:

Image of What household poverty looks like

What household poverty looks like

Electricity is one way we can link poverty and climate issues.

Lack of electricity prevents people from escaping poverty because they must use inefficient and expensive energy sources instead, like batteries and candles . Kerosene lamps are the most common source of lighting, but they are also one of the least efficient .

Image of An example of the ’poverty trap’

An example of the ’poverty trap’

This is a poverty trap: high energy prices for the poorest people makes it harder to escape poverty. By providing electricity to the poorest households, this money could be saved and used to meet other needs .

Image of Earthly escaping the poverty trap

Earthly escaping the poverty trap

But if electricity is produced from fossil fuels, this makes the climate crisis worse . Is there a way to provide electricity without adding to climate change?

Yes! Rich countries have used fossil fuels to develop but many are now switching to low-carbon energy sources .

In regions that have never had electricity before, it is possible to start with renewable energy, without ever having used fossil fuels . This is called technological leapfrogging .

Image of Earthly skipping fossil fuels and going straight to renewables

Earthly skipping fossil fuels and going straight to renewables

For example, solar panels and wind-turbines can be built more quickly than fossil-fuel power stations, and in remote ‘off-grid’ locations . Individual houses or villages can have their own renewable electricity source !

How can we pay for clean energy?

While technological leapfrogging sounds great, setting up low-carbon energies often costs more than fossil fuels . Coal and gas plants can be cheaper to build, even though they cost more to run :

Image of The set up costs of different energy sources

The set up costs of different energy sources

This can make it hard for developing countries and communities to choose renewable and clean energy: they don’t have the money needed for set-up and, in the short term, fossil fuels are cheaper.

Richer countries can help with these short-term costs through donations or loans .


Education can also reduce poverty, help stop climate change and improve lives at the same time !

In many parts of the world, it is hard for children from poorer families to go to school . This limits their job prospects when they get older, meaning they are more likely to stay poor, and less likely to be able to send their children to school . And so the cycle goes on: lack of education traps people in poverty .

Image of Education can help people break out of poverty

Education can help people break out of poverty

On the flipside, education can help people escape poverty because better educated people can access better paid jobs .

Education could also help stop climate change by empowering people to make informed decisions for themselves and the planet .


Every individual has the right to a good standard of living . Every country has the right to develop .

Providing renewable energy to those that need it and ensuring quality education are really important. They can reduce poverty and benefit the climate too !

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