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‘Climate justice’ a hot new policy area

VANCOUVER - The poorest among us will be most hurt by global warming unless politicians take action to protect the most vulnerable. Call it “climate justice”, “climate fairness” or “closing the climate gap”, this is the hot new political zone where social justice policies intersect with climate change science.

Taking the lead in B.C. is the Climate Justice Project, a multi-year research effort spearheaded by the Vancouver office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

A new U.S. report explores similar ground. “The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap,” published by a team from University of Southern California, University of California at Berkeley, and Occidental College in Los Angeles, zeroes in on the “often hidden and unequal harm climate change will cause people of color and the poor in the United States.”

The Tyee found out about the study via the Daily Score blog of Seattle’s Sightline Institute, which has been running a series on “climate fairness” for some time.

As Sightline’s Anna Fahey writes, “The Climate Gap” report “highlights how heat waves, droughts and floods already impact people of color and the poor disproportionately, and are expected to increase in their frequency and intensity.

“For instance, African Americans living in Los Angeles have a projected heat-wave-mortality rate that is nearly twice that of other Los Angeles residents. Minorities and the poor are also less likely to have access to air conditioning and cars, restricting their capacity to evacuate.

“Furthermore, this report finds that minorities and the poor will breathe even dirtier air and pay even more for basic necessities just as they have fewer or shifting job opportunities as a result of climate change. Unless policymakers craft policy that works for everybody (not just Big Oil)."

Fahey goes on to summarize policies to close the climate gap recommended in the report:

Adopting technologies that identify neighborhoods most vulnerable to the Climate Gap

Choosing either an auction or fee-based system that would generate revenue to help families living in poverty absorb the higher costs of water, food and energy

Seizing the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases from sources that also cause toxic air pollution in the neighborhoods with the dirtiest air

Prioritizing the training of people who are most likely to lose their current job because of either climate change or climate solutions for jobs in the new economy

Focusing outreach, intervention, and preparedness efforts for extreme weather events in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color

To these, Fahey adds her own item: “money-saving investments in weatherization and other efficiency measures for low-income families.”

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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