How inequality fuels climate change: The climate case for a Green New Deal

Elsevier, One Earth, Volume 5, 17 June 2022
Green F., Healy N.

Recent proposals in the US and elsewhere aim to tackle climate change and socioeconomic inequalities together through a Green New Deal (GND). GND proposals have been criticized by high-profile advocates of carbon-centric climate policies—advocates who do not perceive socioeconomic inequalities to be significant drivers of climate change and who argue that GNDs’ wider agenda will undermine decarbonization efforts. Here, we show that socioeconomic inequalities drive emissions-intensive consumption and production, facilitate the obstruction of climate policies by wealthy elites, undermine public support for climate policy, and weaken the social foundations of collective action. This suggests that integrating certain carbon-centric policies into a wider program of social, economic, and democratic reforms would achieve decarbonization more effectively than carbon-centric policies alone. We show that common policy components of GNDs do indeed tackle the causal mechanisms by which inequalities fuel climate change, and we argue that GNDs enable more effective political strategies than carbon-centric policies.