Climate Gap in the United States: Research and Bibliography
What is the climate gap? Climate change affects are determined by the way communities are able to cope, prepare, and recuperate from climate disasters and because of this, communities who face inequalities such as racial, economic, and political minorities may be at more of a risk of environmental and health problems as well as will have less opportunity to see economic growth. Examples of events that communities should be able to deal with are sea level rise, hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and disease. (According to this article, socioeconomic status will refer to the following: income level, inherited wealth, educational status, beneficial social status, and race/ethnicity) (Shonkoff, Seth B., et al: pg. 1-2)
Climate change has an effect on all aspects of life. In the United States, the majority of the issue isn’t seen by the average American. People of color and the poor as seeing disproportionate effects on job security, paying for bare necessities, general and overall health including: breathing dirtier air and experiencing hotter and more serious heat waves. The authors explored the ways the climate gap is affecting people and ways to resolve and close the climate gap. While natural disasters become more severe, this means that homes and other assets will be destroyed in events. “Insurance loss has been an upward trend since 1985.” (Morello-Frosch, Rachel, et al: pg. 17) This loss has been recorded to average at about $23 billion a year, and during 2005 rose to $83; Hurricane Katrina and Wilma costing $60 billion of that alone. (Morello-Frosch, Rachel, et al. : pg. 17)
Why is there income inequalities in our world today? Two different types of inequality: wealth inequality, overall accumulated assets minus liabilities and income inequality, this is how the new flow of money is being distributed throughout the population. Branko Milonavic, an economist who focused on income inequality, states that the income equality comes from The Economic Big Bang. An idea that states that income was pretty evenly distributed before the industrial revolution began. It pushed some countries further in terms of higher incomes and some countries that stayed the same. Globalization has “accelerated” this processed but has done something for the poorer countries, given them a chance to make more money than they had previously. Economists have focused on Skill-Biased Technological Change- meaning that modern day jobs can often be seen as more technology based. Workers who have education and those technology skills are better off than those who don’t. “As manufacturers and manufacturing jobs move overseas, low-skilled,low-paid jobs and high-skilled, high-paid jobs are the only jobs left. People with few skills are left behind in income…” (Muller, Stan, director. Income and Wealth Inequality: Crash Course Economics #17. )
In the last 30 years in the US, the number of people living in poverty with a college degree has risen from 3% to 6%; while people with a high school diploma has risen from 6% to 22%. Bill Gates states, “ Yes, some inequality is built into capitalism….it is inherent to the system. The question is, What level of inequality is acceptable? And when does inequality start to do more harm than good.” U. S. economist say that our level of income inequality is beginning to get to the more harmful point. Saying that this economic inequality has been leading to more violence, drug abuse, and incarcerations (In other countries). This also begins to show inequality in political beliefs as well. The rich have incentives to promote policy that benefits the rich. ADDRESSING THIS ISSUE:
EDUCATION: workers with more and better education, just do better. (Going back to the skill-biased technology change)
RAISING MINIMUM WAGE
ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE AND HIGH-QUALITY CHILDCARE
GOVERNMENTS SHOULD DO MORE TO PROVIDE A SOCIAL SAFETY NET
(Muller, Stan, director. Income and Wealth Inequality: Crash Course Economics #17. )
Why do we see a difference in severity of climate change to people facing those inequalities (race, economic and socioeconomic)? There are two categories Morello-Frosch, Sadd, and Shonkoff use when describing people who are being affected by heat influenced health risks from climate change, intrinsic (Inner attributes: age, disability, and health status) and extrinsic (Outer Attributes: Housing, access to cooling, etc.) Looking at the extrinsic factors related to heat influenced health problems, people who come from lower income and communities of color are more heavily affected by “Heat-Island” effects. This is because most of these communities are located in inner city areas where there is a shift seen from lighter, more naturally occurring (and less heat absorbing) things like grass and trees get turned into darker, heat absorbing things like roads, buildings, and concrete. “Studies done and have shown that there is a positive relationship between the impervious land cover in neighborhoods and an increasing proportion of residents living in poverty. There is a negative relationship with the amount of tree cover and proportion of people living in poverty.” (Shonkoff, Seth B., et al: pg. 3) California also has some of the most heavily air polluted cities in the country, including: Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, and Sacramento. Not only are these the most heavily air polluted cities in California, these are also the most heavily populated places with people who are in racial and economic minorities.
What can we do (or what have we done) to start solving this issue? In the National Climate Change Gap report, encouragement towards supporting different acts and other policies is emphasized. Specifically improving the America Clean Energy Security Act of 2009. In three specific ways the National Climate Gap report was asking people to do in order to refine this act including: establishing a vulnerable communities climate change adaptation panel, targeting green job opportunities and intencentivizing public health benefits.
Establishing a vulnerable communities climate change adaptation panel focused toward looking at how the Act doesn’t include strategies to help communities prepare and recover from severe natural disasters. They noticed that there was not anything to help the least well off (RAWLES: Theory of justice as fairness and equality:)). Targeting green job opportunities focused on making sure that the green job opportunities presented within the act would be geared and marketed towards the people whose jobs are the most likely to be cut: minorities. This helps with the idea that the green job force would create pathways out of poverty in the United States as well as create more sustainable living for everyone. Incentivizing public health benefits focused on the biggest flaw the National Climate Change Gap sees in the Clean Air Act, the lack of incentives or requirements for reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in areas with the highest levels or air pollution and other environmental issues. (The Climate Gap and How to Close It.)
Starting with concerns for some of the current solutions being implemented in the United States Government. One of the proposals that has raised concerns for those who are researching climate effects on low income neighborhoods, is reducing carbon emissions through policy. This policy would raise prices which would in turn fall onto those who make the least money. Specifically, if we want to cut the overall carbon emission by 15%, it would cost 3.3% of the average household income of the lowest income household; while it would cost only 1.7% of the average household income of a household in the top income bracket. Some of the solutions presented in the Climate Gap are:
informing people about staying out of extreme heat
using new mapping technology to map out vulnerable neighborhoods.
Researching new fuel technologies
Design research that identifies opportunities for greenhouse gas reductions for areas with highly polluted air
Design policies that address economic disparities and close the gap of income inequality
(Morello-Frosch, Rachel, et al.: pg. 10-24)
What are real life examples of how climate change is physically affecting people living in low income communities or other minority communities? Looking at a survey done to see how heat waves and health of people are correlated, scientists found that in California, for every ten degrees (Fahrenheit) that the temperature rises, there is a 2.6% increase (95% CI [CL]: 1.3, 3.9) in cardiovascular mortality with ischemic heart disease. (Shonkoff, Seth B., et al: pg.2)
Air pollution is another climate related issue seen occuring in the California cities most populated with people of minority groups. A study done results in the conclusion “that with every rise of temperature ( one degree celsius), there are an estimated 1,000 (CI: 350-1800) excess air-pollution-air pollution deaths. (Shonkoff, Seth B., et al: pg.7) “A recent study called, “Justice in the Air,” found that minorities and the poor in the U.S. already breathe dirtier air than other Americans. Climate Change will only make the air we breathe dirter…” (The Climate Gap and How to Close It.)
Effects to agriculture business can also be seen while looking at what is happening with climate change. Jobs held by low income people in the agriculture industry can be affected in two ways: Increase of more severe and random weather patterns can damage the productivity of the crops and weather systems becoming more severe will lead to more technology needed to be created in order to make sure that crops can be saved. Because of the seasonal and varying work in the agricultural business, workers are often paid minimum wage and are not offered job security. “Latinos comprise 77% of the agriculture industry jobs and the majority of these men and women are classified as low income…” (Shonkoff, Seth B., et al: pg. 9)
The serverness of weather patterns is a big change that will be seen in California and as stated by Morello-Frosch, Sadd, and Shonkoff, the preparedness and resiliency of a community’s infrastructure is based heavily on the people’s income level,access to infrastructure insurance, ETC. (Shonkoff, Seth B., et al)
People who fall within these minorities will have to pay higher prices for the bare necessities that they need in order to live. The reason behind this is that with the rise of carbon emissions and the decline of resources in our world, the price of things like energy, water, and food are going to go up. Another reason is that raising prices on resources like this is actually being proposed as a solution to some of the issues we see. This would not impact those who have enough money to pay for the bare necessities, but what about those who don’t? (The Climate Gap and How to Close It.)
Jobs will not be as easily available. Job industries such as agriculture and tourism are and will be heavily impacted with the rise of weather patterns because of climate change. People rely on these jobs for their income and due to seasonal changes, they might not be available or sustainable anymore. (The Climate Gap and How to Close It.)
Oftenly, uninsured low income communities cannot recover as fast as other communities and often will spend the rest of their lives recovering from natural disaster. When a natural disaster occurs, prices of property insurance will increase leaving people behind while coming up with solutions to help restore neighborhoods; this not only prevents restoration for the natural disaster, but will prevent security for future disasters as well. Increased government spending to help clean up natural disaster sites and also decreases spending money on things such as education, health programs, public transportation, and other programs that help the least well off. (Morello-Frosch, Rachel, et al. : pg. 17)
Morello-Frosch, Rachel, et al. The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap. University of California, Berkeley, 2009. Muller, Stan, director. Income and Wealth Inequality: Crash Course Economics #17. YouTube, YouTube, 6 Dec. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xMCWr0O3Hs. Shonkoff, Seth B., et al. “The Climate Gap: Environmental Health and Equity Implications of Climate Change and Mitigation Policies in California—a Review of the Literature.” Climatic Change, vol. 109, no. S1, 2011, pp. 485–503., doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0310-7. “The Climate Gap and How to Close It.” Dornsife.usc.edu, Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, Apr. 2019, dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/242/docs/National_Climate_GapFact_Sheet_FINAL.pdf.