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Will Climate Change Increase Inequality?
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Will Climate Change Increase Inequality?

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of inequality, how climate change will continue to impact inequality, and what we can do to prevent inequality from getting out of hand moving forward.
Ecology News
2023-10-16T00:00:00.000Z
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Climate change is going to inevitably change the way we all live – from alterations in our daily attire to accommodate the weather, to the destruction of our homes from natural disasters like wildfires, increased eco-anxiety, and even creating a shift for the worst when it comes to inequality.

Seeing as natural disasters induced by climate change continue to spur ongoing issues such as difficulty in filing for taxes, obtaining viable health insurance, and struggles to pay repairment costs – it’s safe to presume that as climate change gets worse, so will inequality.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of inequality, how climate change will continue to impact inequality, and what we can do to prevent inequality from getting out of hand moving forward.

What is inequality?

Inequality refers to the way in which resources are distributed across a population, such as by economic or social class – seeing when one population is denied access to financial resources over another due to their socioeconomic status.

Think of inequality as any other situation in which fair practices are not being depicted – such as one kid being offered a scholarship for higher education over another one for reasons besides their qualifications, or even someone getting a bigger slice of the pie at Thanksgiving over someone else for no apparent reason.
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There are different types of inequality, such as:

  • Income Inequality which refers to how income is often unequally distributed across a population such as in large cities like Paris or New York;
  • Lifetime Inequality which refers to the income gap an individual is bound to experience over the course of their life;
  • Inequality of Wealth which refers to the current distribution of assets across various households and individuals at a given point in time;
  • Inequality of Opportunity which refers to the discrepancy in the options available to those due to their current financial situation and other other aspects out of the group or individual’s control – such as their ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status.

👉 Inequality often stands in the way of people being hired for jobs, accepted for scholarships, or participating in other various activities that they are qualified for due to factors outside of their control. 

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How are we working to mitigate inequality?

Unfortunately, inequality still exists in our society – but the difference between today and a hundred years ago is that we are actively aware of this sensitive predicament and are making an effort to combat the negative effects of inequality that many still suffer from today.

For instance, many companies have chosen to implement DEI values into their workplace – or diversity, equity, and inclusion. This practice works to help people who come from various ethnic backgrounds feel heard and supported throughout their time at the designated company. 

DEI works in three ways:

  • Diversity – This part of DEI refers to encouraging various ethnicities, genders, ages, and people in opposing socioeconomic classes to all work for the same company. This helps to prevent inequality as it will be more apparent that people are hired based on their merit as opposed to their wealth or physical appearance.
  • Equality – It can be difficult to remain objective at all times, but the equality component of DEI helps companies to ensure that each individual is given an equal opportunity to receive a promotion, award, scholarship, or other benefits.
  • Inclusion – In a massive company, sometimes people and their ideas get left behind – but inclusion works to make sure all voices are heard and that everyone at a company feels paramount to the project or mission they seek to achieve as a whole.
Inequality is next to inevitable, therefore – it is imperative that we continue to implement new measures to prevent the impact of inequality from causing too much chaos in society.
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👉 In addition to efforts such as DEI, many colleges and universities have made an effort to provide special scholarships for those who many experience inequality – such as for families with low-incomes or students stemming from minority groups. 

However, despite all of these efforts to mitigate the effects of inequality – there is still one major hurdle that the world is struggling to effectively avoid from impacting inequality, and that’s climate change.

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How could climate change increase inequality?

Climate change has and will continue to impact inequality. This is because the most catastrophic consequences elicited by climate change often have a drastically different impact on the individual or group depending on their ability to acquire resources – both financial or material wise.

For example, imagine there is a massive hurricane in the Miami area (a large metropolitan area with large discrepancies in socioeconomic status and income) – which leaves almost all businesses and homes completely destroyed.

While wealthy areas of Miami such as Coral Gabels, Aventura, and Miami beach are not prone to the effects of climate change or possible sinking of the entire city – they are more able to deal with reparation costs and ultimately get back to business as usual. On the other hand, neighborhoods such as Little Haiti could struggle to rebuild their homes and re-open their business – threatening the future vitality and even survival of those neighborhoods.

Long story short, people with more money will have more access to solutions after a disaster caused by climate change strikes – and as these devastating occurrences rise in frequency, the gap will become more and more clear who has the upper hand in remaining unaffected by the effects of climate change.

This is because without the financial resources to restock their stores or even seek temporary shelter, people, residences, and businesses alike will suffer to adhere to many daily necessities – such as acquiring food or keeping up with compulsory requirements such as filing for their taxes.

👉 In a similar way to how hard times reveal people’s true character and grit, the effects of climate change will continue to illustrate which areas are prone to suffer from inequality. 

Think of it this way – imagine it's senior year of high school and you’re about to go to the prom. The majority of your friends, who have parents with high paying jobs, are able to afford new dresses, shoes, limos, expensive dinner reservations, and high-end hair and makeup appointments. However, coming from a lower income family – going to the prom looks a lot more like a hand-me-down dress from your older sister and mom playing hairdresser at your home.

As a result, it’s probable that your time at the prom won’t feel as carefree in comparison to your peers who can afford all the bells and whistles. The same goes for low-income or developing communities who are unable to meet the new demands of recovering from natural disasters.

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Has climate change already increased inequality?

Unbeknownst to most people, climate change has already demonstrated its ability to impact inequality – seeing as studies have already shown that people who are socially or economically disadvantaged struggle from the effects of climate change more than someone who isn’t socioeconomically challenged. 

One of the most recent examples is with the wildfires that occurred this past summer in Hawaii. Think about it: those indigenous to the historic neighborhoods in Maui that suffered the worst of the wildfire are left without community or the resources to relocate elsewhere. On the other hand, wealthy expats with no personal ties to the country were able to up and leave with ease – and simply start over elsewhere. 

👉 Needless to say, if Hawaii were not a part of the United States – handling the $5.52 billion reparation costs to rebuild Maui would prove more difficult. 

Money is a tool, and in the midst of suffering from the effects of a natural disaster – it can be the difference between safety and insecurity.

Another well-known example is with India, a country that is simultaneously struggling with extreme poverty – creating a perfect recipe for inequality. This is because a country with such a large population and varying levels of socioeconomic status threatens food and water supplies, disrupted services, and can even cause damage to infrastructure – something that will prove deleterious to communities in the country that can’t pay to improve these necessities.

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👉 Did you know that people living in lower income countries are up to five times more likely to be left without shelter after natural disasters as opposed to those living in higher income countries?

However, what is most alarming is that more than 85% of the world is composed of developing countries – or regions of the world that are not able to handle the inequality brought about by climate change. 

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How can we prevent climate change from increasing inequality?

Climate change has and can continue to exacerbate inequality, but the good news is that this doesn’t need to be the case – there are policies we can implement to curb the effects climate change will have on inequality.

Here are just a few ways we could work together to prohibit climate change from impacting inequality more than it already has:

  • Fair Climate Policies: While many climate policies are put into place with the idea of reducing emissions in mind, it could prove a nightmare for some – such as with the California climate legislation that will ban the purchasing of gasoline powered cars from 2035 onwards. While these policies are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state, it will also increase inequality as it will become apparent who can afford an electric car and who will be stuck riding the state’s less-than-optimal public transportation system.
  • Implementation of Clean Energy: Developing countries and communities would largely benefit from improved access to renewable energy, and will help to prevent inequality by ensuring the country will not fall subject to power saving tactics such as load shedding.
  • More Green Jobs: Seeking to create more green jobs would not only be good for the environment, but for the communities suffering from inequality – as it could help to boost their economies.
  • Increased Climate Resilience and Adaptation: There is a reason why things like green infrastructure are becoming all the rage, and it’s because it can do wonders to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. In addition to this, it could help to decrease inequality by providing a boost to the surrounding economy.
  • Better Public Transportation: Taking the bus or metro is often deemed as a, “poor man’s” mode of transportation – but it doesn't have to be. In fact, new modes of public transportation have become trendy – such as rideshare bikes or scooters for people to get around a big city in a green and affordable way. Easy, fun, and affordable public transportation like rideshares can help to reduce the financial stress on commuters paying for gas and ultimately reduce inequality.  

The bottom line is, it is inevitable that climate change will continue to increase inequality – but the drastic effects can be curbed if we take more serious effort to implement some of the recommendations listed above. However, it is most important that we fight against climate change not only to decrease the chances of exacerbated inequality – but for the sake of our planet.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about climate change and if it will increase inequality has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

It can be difficult to understand how climate change will have an impact on your business specifically, but don’t worry – Greenly is here to help! Click here to book a demo and get personalized expertise on how you can start to reduce your own emissions and decrease your environmental impact.

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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