FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
DATE: March 15, 2001
CONTACT: Craig Cheslog, Redefining Progress
OAKLAND—Consumers, especially those with lower incomes, will face significant negative consequences from President George W. Bush's abrupt decision not to treat carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant when it comes to power plant emissions.
"It is ironic that Bush would turn a blind eye to this critical issue within a month of the release of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that attested to the severity of the global warming problem," said Redefining Progress Environmental Justice and Climate Change Campaign Manager Ansje Miller. "Climate change is a life and death issue for the low income and people of color communities in the United States. This decision will do nothing more than delay necessary action and will have serious detrimental effects on the lives of millions of people in this country."
Bush reportedly retreated from his position in response to pressure from Capitol Hill and representatives from the coal and oil industries. To rationalize the sudden policy reversal, Bush cited concerns over electricity prices saying, "We must be very careful not to take actions that could harm consumers." That is a perilously myopic view. By ignoring climate change to save consumers a few cents today, he is saddling those same consumers, particularly those in low-income communities, with a huge price to pay tomorrow.
"While the campaign donors and special interests that lobbied for the change may be able to avoid the consequences of this short-sighted decision," added Miller. "Many others will not be so fortunate."
A Redefining Progress report found that low-income and minority communities would be most affected by climate change. Already burdened with poor air quality and twice as likely to be uninsured as whites, these Americans will become even more vulnerable to climate-change related respiratory ailments, heat-related illness and death, and illness from insect-carried diseases. Climate change will also likely raise food and energy prices, which already represent a large proportion of a low-income family's budget. (For more information, see "What's Fair? Consumers and Climate Change.")
What's worse, Bush is failing to recognize that climate change can be addressed while still protecting consumers and without harming the economy. Over 2,500 economists, including eight Nobel laureates, issued a statement that emphasized that market mechanisms can reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming U.S. living standards -- and may even improve productivity in the long run. (See "The Economists' Statement on Climate Change.") There are a variety of proposals that should be considered, including charging polluters for the emissions that cause global warming and using the revenue either to reduce payroll taxes or to mitigate the effects of climate change on vulnerable groups. (See "Priming the Pump: How Pollution Charges Combined with Revenue Recycling Help the U.S. Economy and Citizens.")
Redefining Progress is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Oakland that develops policies and tools that reorient the economy to value people and nature first. RP does this by developing policies that capture the economy's hidden social and environmental costs, that transform the human use and distribution of the Earth's natural resources, and that restore the value of shared social and natural assets.