Climate Change's Unique Impact on Low-Income Communities

Green is the new black. Going green. Thinking green. In the past few years, everyone from politicians to celebrities to major corporations has decided to “go green.” President Obama has made the environment one of his main priorities. The United States is “going green.” 

But going green is not free. Adopting measures that will counteract the potentially lethal effect of carbon emissions on our planet will impose significant costs that anti-poverty advocates cannot afford to ignore. Indeed, we must all be asking, how will climate change policy affect low-income communities?  

The effects of climate change will hit low-income communities first and hardest. Extreme weather, pollution and toxins in the air are just a few of the effects of climate change that harm the health and safety of low-income individuals. Some are deeming the disparity in climate change effects on different communities “the climate gap.” Many fear that low-income communities will be unprepared for the changes brought about by climate change. 

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Waxman-Markey bill that regulates carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade program requiring businesses to purchase permits for their emissions. The U.S. Senate is taking up consideration of this measure now. Many hope that climate change policy will stimulate the economy and create green jobs. There is also much concern about how heavily the increased costs to businesses will fall on consumers, including low-income individuals

Something must be done to curb the effects of climate change. How can we control the effects of climate change while making the costs incurred by consumers manageable? How do we maximize the gain and minimize the pain of climate change policy for low-income people and communities? 

Join the Shriver Center on September 30 for “Climate Change Policy and Low-Income Communities: Maximizing the Gain and Minimizing the Pain,” a symposium in Chicago where you can learn more about the issues of climate change and climate change policy and their effects on low-income communities. Please register online at or call 312.368.1168.