Conservative media figures have been attacking climate change policies by claiming that they would harm the poor. But their feigned concern contradicts previous attacks on aid for the poor -- and the climate policies in question would actually help developing countries the most.
On September 23, President Obama spoke at the United Nations' climate summit to call for strong international action on climate change. His remarks were immediately met with mockery and criticism in conservative media, with Rush Limbaugh and Fox News' Greg Gutfeld claiming that climate action would hurt the poor. On Fox News' The Five, co-host Gutfeld complained that climate action is a way for “rich people” to “deny” resources to others, going on to say “there are no poor people in this fight.” And on the September 23 edition of Limbaugh's show, Rush ranted that climate change regulations are going to keep "[t]hird world countries" poor:
LIMBAUGH: Do you know who these climate change regulations, this dream of limiting carbon emissions, do you know who it'll really affect? Third world countries are going to be kept poor. They are not going to be allowed economic growth.
So all of these things Obama and his buddies are dreaming about would keep poor people poor, and never allow them to make their way up.
But Limbaugh and Gutfeld -- and many conservative media pundits -- have a history of attacking policies that would help the developing countries for which they claimed to express concern. Limbaugh previously denounced United States' international aid efforts, lamenting that the U.S. is “practically the only one loaning any money” despite the fact that U.S. international aid programs at the time were less generous than some from other countries. Limbaugh also likened a United Nations Development Programme proposal to finance global problems to “rap[ing] the U.S. for $7 trillion.”
Meanwhile, Gutfeld has mocked the serious security threat that small islands face from rising sea levels due to climate change, despite that many experts have determined that small islands “are expected to lose significant proportions of their land,” and that many will become uninhabitable if global warming continues unabated. One such small island resident, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands, delivered a moving poem during the U.N. climate summit about how climate change could impact her child, and has impacted many nations already:
Moreover, their attacks are misguided -- if Limbaugh and Gutfeld were truly concerned about developing countries, they would actually support climate action. Climate change poses a disproportionately high risk to developing countries, many of which are already suffering from its impacts. A report released by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this year determined that climate change will put the world's food supply at risk, with “serious consequences for the poorest nations,” as reported in The New York Times. The Times' Justin Gillis expanded:
The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.
And some of the world's poorest countries are already diverting significant portions of their budgets to respond to the impacts of climate change, according to a recently released report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a London-based think tank. As reported in The Guardian, African countries that are “heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture” have been investing to adapt to “higher temperatures and reductions of water sources consistent with climate change ... in the absence of promised international aid.” That promised international aid includes an underfunded climate adaptation fund that conservative media have attacked as “redistribut[ion].”
The vast majority of those who care about climate change are, in fact, concerned with tailoring policies so that they do not harm the poor -- for instance, the 2009 Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill would have actually benefitted the poorest fifth of Americans. Conservative media who use the poor as a political tool, but oppose all policies to benefit them, should be seen for what they are: hypocrites.
Top Image from Samenwerkende Hulporganisaties retrieved via TckTckTck with a Creative Commons license.