Does Inequality Reduce The Chance of Reversing Global Warming?

“The effects of environmental change is a subject which ties in with so many aspects of equality and social justice. From climate change to changing rural and urban environments, peoples’ lives are impacted upon in so many ways. This photograph was taken on a disused section of the A41 at No Man’s Heath in Cheshire and seemed to suggest much more than just a fading road marking.” Inequality fuels status competition, individualism and consumerism. It makes it harder to gain public support for policies to reduce global warming. During the next 40 years or so carbon emissions will have to be cut by 80 or 90 percent. Politics for perhaps the next generation will be dominated by environmental issues: either with cutting carbon emissions or with the results of our failure to do so. It is therefore important to see how the creation of a sustainable economic system is dependent on greater equality.

People often imagine that we have a choice between improving the real quality of life by continuing economic growth until the environmental costs overwhelm us, or sacrificing improvements in the quality of life in order to achieve economic sustainability. However, what the evidence shows is that, as further economic growth no longer brings real improvements in the quality of life, accepting the limits of sustainability does not involve real sacrifices. But that does not mean having to accept that the quality of life cannot be improved any further: it is now clear that reducing the scale of income inequalities in each society can make very major contributions to the well-being of whole populations.