The wider the gap between rich and poor, the more the environment suffers

A recent report flips the common narrative that says that climate change “exacerbates social and economic inequality,” and instead argues that inequality can itself drive climate change. The report, by Susan Holmberg of the Roosevelt Institute, shows that “unequal societies inflict more environmental damage than more economically even societies.”

“One key topic that is still overlooked is how environmental degradation and climate change are themselves the toxic byproducts of our inequality problem,” Holmberg said in an article on Nexus Media. “People assume that raising incomes will increase personal consumption and, as a result, also increase carbon emissions, which would do little to alleviate climate change. But there are so many more mechanisms at play, including how power disparities hobble communities from protecting, for example, their air or their water.”

As DC grapples with addressing the impacts of climate change (for instance through its Climate Ready DC plan) this report is further evidence that we all must simultaneously address social and economic injustices in our city. The quest for environmental and climate justice are wrapped up in the fight for social justice.

“This is a time for people to get creative about how we can leverage the challenge of climate change to solve our inequality issues.” To protect the environment, “we need good jobs, we need a solid tax base, we need a good healthcare system, and we need criminal justice,” Holmberg said.