A new report out today reveals a real and urgent problem related to the impacts of global warming. It’s what the report’s research team from—USC, Berkeley, and Occidental College in Los Angeles—calls “The Climate Gap.” The climate gap is the “often hidden and unequal harm climate change will cause people of color and the poor in the United States.” (At Sightline, we’ve blogged about this issue quite a bit in our climate fairness series.)
Along with the report, the researchers also released an analysis of the American Clean Energy Security Act currently under consideration by Congress—with solutions to the climate gap top of mind. The researchers suggest that offering fewer free pollution permits to the oil sector—which has a majority of its facilities in minority and low-income neighborhoods—and several cushions against higher prices would be positive steps.
More about the Climate Gap: The report highlights how heat waves, droughts and floods already impact people of color and the poor disproportionately, and are expected to increase in their frequency and intensity.
For instance, African Americans living in Los Angeles have a projected heat-wave-mortality rate that is nearly twice that of other Los Angeles residents. Minorities and the poor are also less likely to have access to air conditioning and cars, restricting their capacity to evacuate.
Furthermore, this report finds that minorities and the poor will breathe even dirtier air and pay even more for basic necessities just as they have fewer or shifting job opportunities as a result of climate change. Unless policymakers craft policy that works for everybody (not just Big Oil).
More about policy solutions: The big point here is that policymakers can—and should—work to close the Climate Gap in their efforts to address climate change. Here are the policy elements the USC team recommends:
- Adopting technologies that identify neighborhoods most vulnerable to the Climate Gap;
- Choosing either an auction or fee-based system that would generate revenue to help families living in poverty absorb the higher costs of water, food and energy;
- Seizing the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases from sources that also cause toxic air pollution in the neighborhoods with the dirtiest air;
- Prioritizing the training of people who are most likely to lose their current job because of either climate change or climate solutions for jobs in the new economy; and
- Focusing outreach, intervention, and preparedness efforts for extreme weather events in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
To that list, I might add, money-saving investments in weatherization and other efficiency measures for low-income families.
Smart climate policy can do all that—while gradually pulling our whole economy off the fossil fuel roller coaster that’s whiplashing family budgets and businesses, rich or poor.