Climate Change Policies Are a Civil Rights Issue

by Daren Bakst on January 8, 2010

In a column for USA Today, Julianne Malveaux writes that climate change is a civil right issue.  The comments posted on the USA Today site regarding her column make it clear that readers were amused by her column more than persuaded.

This is actually problematic because some of her column covers a very important point regarding global warming policies: They do have a disproportionate effect on the poor.  As I have written, almost every single policy pushed to address global warming by environmental groups hurts the poor.

Roy Innis and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) have done excellent work on the key point that climate change policies are a civil rights issue.

Unfortunately, Ms. Malveaux combines very different issues.  The problematic part of the column is at the start where she argues that climate change (not policies) are the civil rights issue.   She writes about how African-Americans produce less greenhouse gas emissions than other Americans and at the same time African-Americans bear the greatest brunt of climate change based on where they live.

It is easy to see where these arguments can be interpreted as a hint towards compensation for African-Americans.  These arguments completely take away from what she does get right: She goes on to make the accurate point that policies to reduce greenhouse emissions disproportionately hurt the poor.

I hope that Ms. Malveaux will continue to bring up the problems with global warming policies.  However, she needs to drop the weak arguments about how climate change is a civil rights issue and instead stay focused on climate change policies.

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