The tragic death of George Floyd has brought about a renewed focus on social justice, with so many of us thinking over the past few weeks, “Surely, we can do better.”
As the dust settles from nationwide riots and inexplicable campaigns to defund the police, it’s time to take a serious look at the real-world effects of policies proposed by the social justice warriors’ climate wing.
It’s disappointing how so-called advocates for equality have been exploiting this cultural moment to push government programs that actually worsen poverty, especially among communities of color. Whether ignorantly or deliberately, “climate justice” initiatives will make life harder for black people in the United States.
The authors of the Green New Deal claimed to be fighting for “climate and environmental justice, which means building a clean economy that protects communities that have been neglected by policymakers for far too long.” But every serious analysis of the failed legislation showed astronomically higher tax and electricity cost burdens, both of which directly impact poor people, who are more likely to be minorities, the most.
A study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Life:Powered project found the Green New Deal would raise the average household electricity bill by $3,200 a year in the Lone Star State. That’s no small sum, especially for low-income families who already have to spend a significantly higher percentage of their limited income on household energy costs.
Expensive climate programs hurt black people by not only hiking their electricity bills but also by negatively impacting the businesses that provide well-paying, upwardly mobile jobs. Higher taxes and operating costs affect every industry, but the “green” movement especially targets the energy industry, a major employer in many working-class communities such as those in Houston.
Instead of ignoring the astronomical price tag of climate regulations such as the Green New Deal, social justice advocates should focus on lowering costs and empowering business owners to grow their companies, creating new jobs to help lift black communities out of poverty and into prosperity.
Some might argue that higher energy costs are just the price we have to pay to stop the inevitable destruction caused by climate change, but government climate and disaster preparedness studies show our communities are becoming more resilient to our environment, not less. Over the last hundred years, climate-related deaths are down and not by a little. The number of people who lose their lives to flood, drought, storms, wildfires, and extreme temperatures has declined 98.9% since 1920.
Similarly, though some cities still experience pockets of pollution that should be addressed, overall, the U.S. is a world leader in clean air. We’re the only large country to meet the World Health Organization’s standards for safe air. The economic shutdowns due to the coronavirus show just how safe our air is, with insignificant changes in airborne pollution showing that weather patterns likely have a much bigger effect on air quality than human activity. As it turns out, we can grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time.
Our elected leaders should work to bolster disaster readiness and continue improving urban air quality through responsible planning regulations. They should do so without sacrificing the economy that all of us, and especially the poorest among us, depend on for survival.
Piggybacking climate change pet projects on the media frenzy over Black Lives Matter is a disservice to the people of color for whom the movement claims to fight. If black lives really matter, activists should focus their efforts on mitigating economic disparities and providing the opportunity for all people to prosper, not on counterproductive “climate justice” spending.
This commentary originally appeared in the Washington Examiner on June 25, 2020.