House Majority Whip: Climate Change Hurts Blacks More

     Climate change is no longer just an environmental issue. It’s now an issue of race, according to global warming activists and policy makers.

     “It is critical our community be an integral and active part of the debate because African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change economically, socially and through our health and well-being,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said July 29.

     Clyburn spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to help launch the Commission to Engage African-Americans on Climate Change, a project of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

     The launch came on the heels of a separate report by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative (EJCC), which claims African-Americans are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. EJCC describes itself as a “climate justice” advocacy group.

    “Though far less responsible for climate change, African-Americans are significantly more vulnerable to its effects than non-Hispanic whites,” the report says. “Health, housing, economic well-being, culture, and social stability are harmed from such manifestations of climate change as storms, floods, and climate variability.

     “African-Americans are also more vulnerable to higher energy bills, unemployment, recessions caused by global energy price shocks, and a greater economic burden from military operations designed to protect the flow of oil to the U.S,” it says.

     The commission Clyburn helped launch claims Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans was a preview of how global warming will affect African-Americans.

     “[W]hile individual storms cannot be linked specifically to climate change, scientists warn that warmer waters may foster-more intense storms,” the background paper on the commission’s efforts, authored by Michel Gelobter, Carla Peterman and Azebuilke Akaba said. “The flooding of New Orleans still highlights the vulnerability of the African-American community to types of extreme weather events expected with global climate change.”

     But the goals of environmental and race activists don’t include allowing investors to earn the benefits of putting their money into proposed solutions.

     J. Andrew Hoerner, director of the sustainable economics program at Redefining Progress and a co-author of the EJCC report, told the Business & Media Institute that solutions to climate change should be designed in a way so investors don’t reap all the benefits.

     “There is a certain disconnect between what is good for workers, consumers, managers, and the economy on one hand and stockholders on the other,” Hoerner said. “We found that the combination of efficient market instruments, return of the revenue, cost-effective promotion of new clean technologies and efficiency, and targeted policies for low-income households grows the economy. It increases employment and profits overall, and provides a net benefit for consumers.” 

     The report suggested implementing a “fee, tax or allowance auction on polluters,” which was meant to “eliminate the financial burden on low-income and moderate-income households.This would pay for efforts to reduce global warming. Hoerner said that although it would cause product costs to increase, under his policy, the revenue from the “fee, tax, or allowance auction payment” would be redistributed to consumers to offset the higher costs.

     “However, this increase in profits may be smaller than the windfall to stockholders if allowances are given away for free, even though this windfall is partially offset by higher product prices, lower sales, lower production and lower profits on the firm’s output, exclusive of the value of the allowances,” Hoerner continued. “Most businesses are energy consumers, not producers, and their interests lie with household energy consumers.”