A new study confirms what conservatives have long suspected: Expensive climate change programs, such as the Green New Deal, would hurt the poor the most.
Researchers from the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change estimate that if every country participating in the Paris climate accord actually fulfilled its greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges, more than 3 million people will be pushed into poverty. That’s on top of the 1 billion people around the world who still don’t have electricity or any of the benefits that come with it — like clean running water, refrigeration, modern medical care, and home heating.
Reliable, affordable energy has the power to lift people from poverty. Making that energy less accessible is a disservice to both the less fortunate and to the environment.
History has shown that economic prosperity and environmental quality go hand in hand. Though the environmentalist Left loves to hate fossil fuels, our air and water are cleaner than ever because of them. The EPA’s six key airborne pollutants, including lead and ozone, are down 74% since 1970 — the cleanest on record. Scientific advancements, fueled by affordable energy and a thriving free market, have made our businesses more efficient and improved environmental technology.
Meanwhile, the green groups’ claims that fighting climate change equals fighting economic inequality doesn’t hold weight.
Though it’s impossible to truly quantify the cost of a proposal as expansive and vague as the Green New Deal, one new report estimates that implementing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s pièce de résistance will cost up to $100,000 per household in the first year alone. That $100,000 isn’t the government’s money; it comes from the taxpayers who will also feel the strain on their wallets from higher electricity and fuel costs.
No country, state, or city has ever achieved 100% renewable energy, or even close, and costs have invariably gone up under programs attempting to force a switch to wind and solar. Paying more for energy doesn’t just mean a higher utility bill — those costs also balloon the price of essentially every transaction we could ever make. Living a safe, healthy, and comfortable life requires electricity, as does running a business.
When polled about climate change, Americans consistently say they aren’t willing to pay more to stave off the supposed watery doomsday on the horizon. An AP poll found that well over two-thirds of Americans wouldn’t consider paying just $10 more a month on their electricity bills. An even more damning poll in San Antonio, one of over 400 cities pledging to implement their own versions of the Paris accords, revealed more than half aren’t willing to pay a single penny.
It’s not that Americans don’t care about the environment; despite this poll data, climate change consistently ranks as a major policy concern. They recognize the costs simply aren’t worth strangling our economy and our quality of life.
The global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions proposed by the Paris Climate Accord, however unrealistic, are projected to reduce the temperature in 2100 by at most 0.17°. If we stop the temperature from rising two tenths of a degree but subject millions more people to poverty, will it have been worth it?
Protecting and preserving our natural environment should be a priority. But raging against climate change at the expense of human lives is no more than a pyrrhic victory.
The widespread adoption of fossil fuels coincides with the most rapid improvements in quality of life in recorded history, including life expectancy, hunger, education, infant mortality, child labor, economic freedom, gross domestic product, and more. The best path forward is to allow America to continue embracing our abundant, reliable, affordable energy to lift people here and abroad from poverty.
Politicians who claim their expensive environmental programs will solve economic injustice should take another look at the numbers.
This commentary originally appeared in the Washington Examiner on August 13, 2019.