How Green Policies Hurt the Poor

April 14, 2014

The United Nations and other global warming activists frequently say that global warming hurts the poor the most. But the policies that these groups want to put into place to combat climate change are incredibly costly and they hurt the poor most of all, says Bjorn Lømborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre.

  • Since 2005, British households have reduced electricity consumption by 10 percent.
  • This is a stat frequently cheered by environmentalists, but they tend to leave out the fact that the reduction came alongside a 50 percent increase in electricity prices (necessary to pay for Britain's increased share of renewables from 1.8 percent to 4.6 percent).

This directly impacts the poor, for whom electricity costs are a large portion of their budgets. Higher energy prices means that the poor must reduce their electricity consumption in order to pay for it. Energy consumption among the rich, on the other hand, has remained steady.

In the last five years, it has become 63 percent more expensive to heat a home in the United Kingdom. At the same time, real wages have declined.

  • More and more households (17 percent) are being forced to spend more than 10 percent of their income simply on energy, earning the designation "energy poor." Elderly households are especially affected by this -- 25 percent of all households whose inhabitants are over the age of 60 fall into this category.
  • The situation in Germany is even worse. German households have seen an 80 percent increase in electricity prices since 2000, and nearly 7 million households are considered "energy poor."

In the developing world, millions are dying from indoor air pollution, because they must burn twigs and dung to heat their homes. These poverty-stricken nations need access to cheap electricity, yet the developed world wants these nations to use solar panels.

  • According to the Centre for Global Development, a $10 billion renewable energy investment would lift 20 million Africans out of poverty.
  • But a $10 billion investment in gas electrification? That would lift 90 million out of poverty.

People and nations become prosperous with access to affordable and dependable energy. Those advocating policies to combat global warming claim that doing so will help the world's poor. They do not recognize the fact that cutting carbon emissions is the least efficient means to this end. What the poor need is affordable and plentiful energy.

Source: Bjørn Lomborg, "How Green Policies Hurt the Poor," The Spectator, April 5, 2014.

 

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