Governors Need To Do More To Protect Their Low-Income Residents From Climate Change Especially In The South – OpEd


Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Wildfires. Extreme heat.

Welcome to summer.

In May, there were more than 500 tornadoes reporteda five-year record. Forecasters predict an above average Atlantic hurricane seasonabove normal summer temperatures, and an above average wildfire season this summer. Extreme weather and natural disasters must be taken seriously.

While all the states in US are affected by extreme weather and natural disasters, Southern states and low-income residents are disproportionately harmed. Figure 1 shows that 24 percent of adults in the South reported being financially harmed by a natural disaster or severe weather in 2023 — a rate significantly higher than in other regions.

Figure 2 shows that 25 percent of adults earning less than $25,000 a year reported being financially harmed from these events, while only 16 percent of those earning $100,000 or more reported the same. It is likely that low-income Southerners are being particularly hard hit. With less financial resources and likely more precarious living circumstances low-income households are less able to afford and recover from climate events.

These extreme weather problems are being driven and exacerbated by human-caused climate change. This is a complex and difficult global problem, and all governments must do their part. Although Southerners are being harmed more by climate change, Southern governors are not rising to the challenge. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis erased almost all references to climate change in the state’s laws, thereby rescinding the state’s clean energy goals. Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry views climate change as a hoax and wants a bigger oil and gas industry in his state. Texas Governor Greg Abbott opposes renewable energy like wind and solar. Many Southern governors are at best, implementing “a hodge-podge of contradictory initiatives,” or at worst supporting policies that will increase greenhouse gas emissions and deepen the problem.

Algernon Austin

Algernon Austin is the Director for Race and Economic Justice at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Algernon Austin has conducted research and writing on issues of race and racial inequality for over 20 years. His primary focus has been on the intersection of race and the economy. Austin was the first Director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy where he focused on the labor market condition of America’s workers of color. He has also done work on racial wealth inequality for the Center for Global Policy Solutions and for the Dēmos think tank. At the Thurgood Marshall Institute, the think tank of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., he worked on issues related to race, the economy, and civil rights.

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