Monday, July 17, 2017

Climate Justice and Inequality

It's no secret that environmental justice cannot be separated from racial justice and economic justice, so that even the EPA features a page that advocates for the "fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies."

So it's important to keep up with current models and predictions, especially with regard to our growing understandings of the impacts of climate change. A recent study from Rutgers University, "led by Solomon Hsiang of the University of California, Berkeley, Robert Kopp of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Amir Jina of the University of Chicago, and James Rising, also of UC Berkeley," is providing some important glimpses of what those impacts will look like if things proceed on their present course.

And it's not good. As the title puts it, "Climate change damages US economy, increases inequality."

First, there will be winners and losers. The South and lower Midwest, "poor and hot already, will lose the most, with economic opportunity traveling northward and westward. Colder and richer counties along the northern border and in the Rockies could benefit the most as health, agriculture and energy costs are projected to improve."

Second, these losses will be characterized by "economic restructuring and widening inequality." As the temperature goes up, the GDP will go down (.7% per degree Fahrenheit), "with each degree of warming costing more than the last." The social costs of extreme heat will include a tendency to increase "violent crime, slow down workers, amp up air conditioning costs, and threaten people's lives." As Hsiang puts it, "If we continue on the current path, our analysis indicates it may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country's history."

Third, the impacts will not go away. We are on pace to a 6-10°F warming by the end of this century, which will bring "costs on par with the Great Recession -- except they will not go away afterwards and damages for poor regions will be many times larger. ... Here in the Midwest, we may see agricultural losses similar to the Dustbowl of the 1930s."

The real value of this kind of research is to give us a realistic picture of what we are facing and both motivate us and direct us to act. It is increasingly clear that there are already people who can profit from climate change, valuing their greed over the lives and well-being of the most vulnerable communities both here and abroad.

As Thenjiwe McHarris, a national organizer within the Movement for Black Lives, reminded us at the People’s Climate March,
"This must be a deliberate, strategic choice made as a means to not only end the legacy of injustice in this country, but in an effort to protect the earth." (SOURCE)