CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT WITHOUT PUNISHING THE POOR Photo: iStock By Israel Ortega April 20, 2016

Expect much fanfare and favorable media coverage when diplomats and foreign dignitaries from around the world gather at the United Nations to sign the Paris climate agreement on Friday — which happens to be Earth Day. The agreement will be seen as an important milestone to fight climate change. But there is one storyline likely to get considerably less attention: what the climate agreement will mean for the poorest of the world’s poor.

Much of the Paris agreement is founded on the idea that governments will work aggressively toward reducing carbon emissions while subsidizing renewable energy sources. But as energy and environmental scholar Kathleen Hartnett White of the free-market Texas Public Policy Foundation explains in her forthcoming book, “Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy,” the poor and the lower middle class are hurt most as a result of heavy handed environmental governmental regulations and taxes.

Speaking to Opportunity Lives, White said that the affluent and well-to-do are in a better position to absorb higher energy costs in the name of environmental stewardship. As companies pass on the higher costs of doing businesses to consumers, people with more disposable income will hardly notice. But for the vast majority of the population, including people living in developing nations such as India and China, where hundreds of millions subsist in poverty, higher energy costs would be crippling.

germany energy cost

The impact will also be felt in more developed countries like Germany, where millions of working class people have seen their energy bills rise dramatically ever since the government imposed aggressive target measures to reduce carbon emissions. Der Spiegel, one of the country’s leading newspapers, recently editorialized:

“Germany’s aggressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power has come with a hefty price tag for consumers, and the costs often fall disproportionately on the poor. Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.”

Germany is hardly the only example. Elsewhere in Europe, well-intentioned environmental policies have turned energy into a luxury good. What’s strange is that until recently President Barack Obama and the White House were pointing to Europe, specifically Spain, as a model for the United States to follow.

Apart from imposing higher energy costs on consumers, White says the greater threat is radical environmentalists that want to do undo decades of progress and human advancement. As mankind has harnessed the ability to produce cost effective energy, millions have benefited from increased productivity and a higher quality of life.

“Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, life expectancy has increased dramatically and real income per capita has risen at least 10 times,” White said. “As a result, economic productivity is higher than its ever been meaning we have a thriving middle class.”

“This is happening because of an energy and industrial revolution,” she said.

Unfortunately, climate alarmists are having great success advancing their agenda and convincing world leaders to embrace more expensive energy sources as seen by the number of countries that will have representatives at the United Nations on Earth Day.

“We are going backwards,” White said.

For the vast majority of the world’s poor, higher energy costs would be crippling

Here at home, environmental policies are causing tens of thousand of job losses all across the country largely the result of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates and regulations. Among the communities targeted by EPA rules include the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, where two large power plants and coalmines are slated for closure.

As a power plant worker tells the Fueling Freedom Project, an initiative by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in an on camera interview: “Just the three years of working has really benefited me a lot. So it would be nice to get at least 10 more years out of it.”

There are better ways to care for the environment while encouraging greater diversification of energy sources without killing jobs and passing on energy costs to society’s most vulnerable.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @IzzyOrtega.