The climate crisis is a crisis of inequality

Our collective inaction on climate breakdown reflects in part our failure to acknowledge that the climate crisis is a crisis of inequality, and that solving the climate crisis is inextricably tied with the politics and economics of inequality. Put simply, redistribution from rich to poor, whether domestically or internationally, is a climate policy, and climate policies that inadvertently raise inequality are likely to be less effective than those that purposefully reduce it.
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Meanwhile, globally, poverty closely corresponds with climate shock sensitivity. The world’s poor are more likely to reside in climate-vulnerable countries and have fewer resources to guard against and recover from climate shocks. Their food and water are threatened by climate breakdowns. Poorer people—those who work outdoors, live in households without air conditioning, or cannot migrate from flood or fire-prone locations—will pay the highest price for climate disruption in even rich nations.
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No international democracy exists, only unequal nations competing for economic and political supremacy. How can those who want to reduce poverty and global carbon emissions implement an equalizing climate policy worldwide faced with voters who don’t want to give up their relatively high incomes and ability to appropriate the carbon budget? Here are three possible steps.
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This year’s record heat, fires, and flooding may finally lead to an understanding of the ubiquity of the threat. Historically, in wartime, when a threat has been visible and immediate, entire societies have accepted rationing for the common good. Perhaps, eventually, when the climate threat cannot be denied, they will accept caps on emissions—through either cap-and-trade systems or direct rationing—which may be the only credible way to meet safe emissions targets.

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Read this very interesting and very long article by Rohini Pande, Department of Economics and Economic Growth Center, Yale University, New Haven, published in August 2023, in on-line Science Journal.

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