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MYTH #101: Carbon limits will hurt the poor


Life under the climate change agenda will be even worse for people living in poverty.


Poor people are the ones who will suffer the most if we don't do something about climate change.

Contrary to what climate deniers would have you believe, it is the poor who will suffer the most if we don't do anything about climate change. Whether in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, low-income people are often most vulnerable to extreme weather disasters linked to our warming climate. They’re the ones hurt the most when climate change reduces food and water supplies. They have the least access to the care they need when climate change threatens their health. Fortunately, clean energy is often a path out of poverty, as can already be seen in many parts of the world. For example, in Bangladesh today, over one million homes have solar panels. In many cases, a single solar power system is enough to keep a family fed, keep their businesses open longer, and help their children study after the sun goes down. Fighting climate change by reducing carbon pollution is a win-win for all of us.

Additional info from the Climate Reality Project

If you work or play inside all day, it’s easy to forget how climate shapes your life. Climate affects everything from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to how we build our homes. This means manmade climate change can also affect every aspect of our lives — and usually not in a good way.

Here’s the thing. Climate change will affect us all, but it won’t affect us all equally. The poorest people of the world will bear the brunt of climate change, even though they’ve contributed least to the global warming pollution in the atmosphere.

Why are low-income people so vulnerable to climate change? For one thing, they are more likely to rely on climate-sensitive natural resources for food or income. Take Arctic Canada, for example, where low-income families find it harder to keep their pantries stocked in unusually warm winters. For another thing, people in extreme poverty are often exposed to multiple environmental problems at the same time. Climate change can worsen poverty by compounding existing problems such as low-quality cropland. Or, as the United Nations Development Programme puts it: “People have to work more to achieve the same returns or may even have to migrate to escape environmental degradation.”

Well, that’s assuming they have the means to migrate, of course. It takes money to pack up your family and move to a new place — especially when you live on a small island that is being inundated by rising seas.

And then there’s the fact that climate change is increasing the risk of extreme weather like heat waves and heavy rain. Extreme weather doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. But chances are if you have enough money, you can get away from a weather disaster or rebuild what you lose. For instance, a recent study (PDF) found the urban poor are more vulnerable to the health impacts of extreme heat because they lack access to air conditioning. Similarly, a U.S. Department of Agriculture report suggests that more frequent heat waves will increase demand for electricity. Increased demand can drive energy prices higher — putting life-saving air conditioning even further out of reach for low-income American families.