One of the most tragic reasons global warming legislation doesn’t have more public support is the (mis)perception that it will primarily affect the poor and disadvantaged around the globe. In fact, Hell and High Water will devastate poor and rich alike — it’s just that the poor have fewer resources available for coping with the impending catastrophe, and they often to live in areas most vulnerable to extreme weather.
If any proof were needed how hard extreme weather hits the disadvantaged, including poor African-Americans, one need look no further than Hurricane Katrina. While no individual storm can be directly linked to global warming, energy and moisture picked up from warmer Gulf waters produce more intense winds and rain. And in the case of Katrina, that extra punch may be what destroyed the levees protecting New Orleans–the “straw that breaks the camel’s back,” in the words of Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of Climate Analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The deadly combination of sea level rise and warming Gulf waters mean that — unless we quickly get off our current emissions path — we’ll be seeing many more Katrinas (see “Why future Katrinas and Gustavs will be MUCH worse at landfall, Part 2” and “Nature: Hurricanes ARE getting fiercer “” and it’s going to get much worse“).
Those who want to take the strongest possible action on climate, like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), are doing so in part because they recognize a moral responsibility we all have to both future generations and to the poor and disadvantaged. It takes a great deal of chutzpah for anyone to accuse her climate leadership of have racist elements — especially someone who strongly opposes even the moderate climate action currently being considered by Congress, someone such as National Black Chamber of Commerce CEO Harry Alford, whose “group has received $350,000 from ExxonMobil since 2003 and [who] has a history of offering up climate skeptic talking points,” as Grist notes.
And yet Alford did just that in a Senate hearing yesterday. The National Republican Senatorial committee is already pushing this incident hard as if it reflects badly on Boxer, rather than Alford. But that’s what we’re up against.
Below is the video of the exchange plus a description of this travesty by Brad Johnson, first published in Wonk Room.