Climate Change (Research)
This sixth report from the Working Group on Climate Change and Development argues that our chances of triumphing over climate change will rise dramatically if we recognize that there we need not one but many models of human development. The report describes how the costs and benefits of global economic growth have been very unfairly distributed, with those on lowest incomes getting the fewest benefits and paying the highest costs. A wide range of examples of more positive approaches are given from the wide, practical experience of the agencies in the coalition. Altogether they paint a picture of more qualitative development that is not dependent on further global over-consumption by the already rich, in the hope that crumbs of poverty alleviation are perhaps passed to those at the bottom of the income pile. Other Worlds are Possible notes that difference between success and failure in the international climate negotiations will be whether governments and financial institutions continue to support old, failed economic approaches, with their policy frameworks and our financial resources, or whether they will move to encourage and replicate new approaches that take account of our changed economic and environmental circumstances. This timely report makes the case in compelling terms that there is not one model of economic development; there are many.
To successfully address the climate crisis, we must also identify and address the deep root causes that link it to the myriad other crises we face— economic, militarism and war, as well as the intertwined crises of food, water and biodiversity loss. These crises are unified by their common roots in an economic system that encourages banks and corporations to ignore ethical and moral considerations and gamble with the Earth, peoples’ lives, and our collective futures in the service of higher profits. To paraphrase neoliberal economic pioneer Milton Friedman, ‘the corporation cannot be ethical. It’s only responsibility is to make a profit for its shareholders.’ Successfully addressing climate change will require a fundamental restructuring of our society that, if thoughtfully done, can lay a new foundation that will simultaneously help us achieve both global justice and ecological balance.
What we used to think was tomorrow’s climate crisis is here today. Heat waves, wild fires and floods are making headlines more often. What hasn’t made headlines—yet—is the climate gap: the disproportionate and unequal impact the climate crisis has on people of color and the poor. Unless something is done, the consequences of America’s climate crisis will harm all Americans—especially those who are least able to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the worst consequences. This analysis is of California, which in many ways is a microcosm of the entire United States. Climate change is an issue of great importance for human rights, public health, and social fairness because of its profound consequences overall and the very real danger that poor neighborhoods and people of color will suffer even worse harms and hazards than the rest of Americans. This “climate gap” is of special concern for California, home to one of the most ethnically and economically diverse populations in the country.
In an analysis prepared for three California state agencies, the Pacific Institute estimates that 480,000 people; a wide range of critical infrastructure; vast areas of wetlands and other natural ecosystems; and nearly $100 billion in property along the California coast are at increased risk from flooding from a 1.4-meter sea-level rise – if no adaptation actions are taken. The Pacific Institute report, The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast, concludes that sea-level rise will inevitably change the character of the California coast, and that adaptation strategies must be evaluated, tested, and implemented if the risks identified in the report are to be reduced or avoided. Populations and critical infrastructure at risk are shown in detailed maps prepared by the Pacific Institute available online here. The report also explores how vulnerability to sea-level rise will be heightened among Californians who do not have a vehicle, do not speak English, or who live near hazardous waste facilities. Low-income households and communities of color are over-represented in these more vulnerable groups.