Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the most recent candidates’ debate in Iowa repeated the canard that climate change “particularly hits black and brown communities.” On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, it should be alerted that it is climate change policies promoted by her and fellow alarmists that would particularly hit black and brown communities by raising their cost of living and eliminating many of their jobs.

The several proposals for a “Green New Deal” for America have the common central feature of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy on the assumption that such energy is feasible in the near-term, and that carbon emissions will decline to lower the Earth’s temperature.

Carbon emissions and temperature data, in fact, have risen far more slowly in recent decades than what is claimed by the climate models posited by the alarmist camp of scientists, as CFACT recently explained. Accordingly, the Earth and its inhabitants do not face an “existential threat,” nor are we sooner facing the “point of no return.”

If America is to turn away from fossil fuels and transform to more carbon-free renewable energy sources, there is plenty of time for further research and development to make it practical. This would allow a far more seamless transition over decades as technological advances continue apace.

Instead, the current political effort to rapidly destroy America’s fossil fuel and gasoline auto industries through premature government mandates for non-fossil fuel use is reckless and harmful – particularly to black and brown communities. Upper income households can afford the resulting rise in energy and utility costs for heating our homes or driving our cars. By contrast, lower income households will struggle making financial ends meet.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line in 2017. Disaggregated by race, the poverty rate for black and brown Americans is substantially higher, at 21 percent of blacks and 18 percent of non-white Hispanic Americans.

The laws of mathematics are simple: poor people have less disposable income than wealthy people to absorb inexorable higher energy costs resulting from climate policies. For people living in poverty this will exacerbate their condition, especially for black and brown Americans since greater percentages of them already are poor.

Then there is the baleful effect of climate policies on jobs, particularly in fossil fuel and related manufacturing and transportation industries, which are heavily cost-sensitive to energy. Curtailing fossil fuels would result in less extraction and increased transportation costs, resulting in fewer jobs overall, which would particularly hit black and brown Americans.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 5.4 percent of Americans work in construction and extraction industries (mining, drilling, etc.) and 6.4 percent work in transportation and material moving industries.

For Hispanics, 11.4 percent of them work in construction and extraction industries, more than double the overall percentage of Americans, while 8.2 percent work in transportation and material moving jobs, nearly one-third higher than the overall percentage of Americans. For blacks, 10 percent work in transportation and material moving occupations, nearly double the overall percentage of workers.

For black and brown males, the percentages that work in these energy sensitive industries are even higher. Accordingly, they will suffer greater harm from climate policies that target these job sectors.

Another way to examine the economic and societal harm of climate alarmist policies on minority workers is to understand their disproportionate representation in those affected industries. For example, a BLS study of 2014 industry data showed that Hispanics comprise more than 43 percent of farming, fishing and forestry employment, the latter category of which is particularly vulnerable to climate policy restrictions on logging. Hispanics also comprise nearly one-fifth of the workers employed in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction.

Industry and job sector transformation in America is not a new phenomenon. It is part of our history and the natural outcome of technological advances. Agriculture employs a much smaller percentage of Americans than a century ago, and manufacturing employment, while having increased in recent years, has declined in recent decades as a share of the workforce.

Still, the climate policies that prematurely force the declination and destruction of fossil fuels will unnecessarily raise costs and accelerate thousands of job losses, especially for blue collar workers, as former Vice President Joe Biden recently acknowledged. As the data shows, greater economic harm will result in more vulnerable black and brown communities by worsening their poverty and employment opportunities.

Author

  • Peter Murphy, a CFACT analyst, has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the New York Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.