After what seems like a summer-long heatwave, more and more Americans are looking to Congress and the White House for answers. While the Republican party has used misinformation and obstruction to hide the causes of climate change, Americans are suffering. Approximately 5 million people die every year due to the effects of climate change, with a projected 250,000 additional deaths per year from 2030 to 2050. As with most threats to health and safety, those in poverty or lower socioeconomic classes are significantly more likely to feel the effects of climate change, all while the rich and wealthy corporations profit from it. Without taking immediate action to combat both growing wealth inequality and the climate crisis, the two will exacerbate each other until it’s too late. Only through taxing the corporations who are profiting off of destroying our planet and investing in climate saving practices will we have a chance to survive this catastrophe.
While climate change is the natural, slow process that has regulated our planet for thousands and thousands of years, the man-made climate change we are experiencing now is a different beast altogether. By relying on nonrenewable energy sources and prioritizing consumerism over sustainability, human innovation has caused incalculable damage to our environment. Burning fossil fuels is among the worst culprits, as it increases the speed at which climate change happens. Scientists have already agreed that we are past the point of no return for many immediate effects of climate change, such as worsening weather and wildlife extinctions, but there is still hope to reduce the damage from some longer-term effects.
Economic inequality has left millions of Americans and billions worldwide in a precarious position in our modern world. Even at the best of times, they’re one misfortune away from ruin, one unlucky break away from absolute destitution. As climate change grows worse, those unlucky breaks will become more and more common. Many people’s economic positions have already been entirely disrupted by the effects of climate change, and if no action is taken, it will only continue to do so.
Those lucky enough to avoid becoming one of the 5 million lives lost over the next few decades from climate-related effects may still be subjected to relocation and unemployment, among other forms of economic hardship. Even today, more than 20 million people worldwide are forced to leave their homes and communities yearly due to climate change, and almost all of those people are lower and middle class. Marginalized groups, including Black and indigenous communities and women, are more likely to experience poverty and life in environments lacking proper climate change infrastructure, making them even more susceptible to the whims of a changing planet. If we want to protect these communities and hold off disaster for our world, we must hold corporations and their beneficiaries responsible for exploiting our planet.
Across the country, Americans are feeling the effects of both climate change and a rapidly increasing wealth inequality gap: more than 60% of middle and lower-class Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: our national infrastructure does not prioritize human welfare but rather corporate profit. Something must change. Without the infrastructure needed to protect regular people from the longer-term effects of climate change, such as access to reliable electricity, job and healthcare stability, and affordable, nutritious food, it will become harder for all but the richest to maintain an adequate quality of life.
Despite having more than enough money and power to completely reverse climate change the richest of the rich are typically those most ignorant of its day-to-day financial effects upon the lower classes. While Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are busy throwing billions of dollars into purposeless space travel and entertainment, Americans continue to suffer. While some billionaires take minuscule steps to appear eco-conscious, they refuse to make any sacrifices to their personal comfort or their bottom lines to create any meaningful change. Whereas the average person produces only about 5 tonnes of carbon per year as their footprint, rich people like Bezos produce more than 2,000 tonnes of carbon–with some reaching a massive 30,000 tonnes per year.
Time and time again, the 1% show themselves to be completely out of touch with the rest of society, especially as it concerns the well-being of our people and planet. While the richest may donate to environmentally-friendly causes and charities, they continue to profit off of climate change and spend absurd amounts of money to live outside its direct effects. One-percenters ensure policies stay complacent with the Earth’s destruction, with great results. In recent weeks, billionaire and corporate interests fought to diminish and kill the Inflation Reduction Act, a ground-breaking piece of environmental justice. The IRA provisions include for $60 billion to be invested into disadvantaged climate communities and clean energy jobs; funding comes from a 15% corporate minimum tax and a 1% stock buyback fee for investors. Ultimately, the IRA seeks to reduce nationwide carbon emissions by 37-41% by 2030 while building a stronger environmental foundation.
As much as the richest corporations would have you believe otherwise, individual people are not the real cause of climate change escalation. No individual can fix our planet on their own; it is a systemic emergency caused by unchecked greed & power. This crisis will require systemic solutions to save our planet and those who have suffered due to climate change’s harmful effects. Targeting both the large corporations and the corrupt politicians serving their interests is essential to paving an environmentally equitable future where those most responsible pay their fair share.
As the worldwide population nears more than 8 billion people, climate change and wealth inequality will worsen. Climate change is expected to force 68-135 million extra people into poverty by 2030, with many more effects to come in the decades thereafter. By taxing those rich individuals and corporations directly profiting off of climate change, there will be a greater amount to reinvest back into the environment’s stability. The Inflation Reduction Act and its tax on the wealthiest corporations is a huge step forward for combating environmental destruction and climate inequality in marginalized communities. It’s time to tax those corporations most responsible for worsening climate change and invest the money back into the beautiful planet we all share.