by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
April 10, 2014
CLIMATE CHANGE, ECONOMIC INEQUALITY GO HAND-IN-HAND
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The two big stories from last week - the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that concluded that humanity's chances of long-term survival are dwindling fast unless something is done about global warming; and the U.S. Supreme Court 5-4 decision to destroy what was left of campaign finance law and allow the wealthy to buy elections with impunity - were a great illustration of how climate change and economic inequality are inextricably linked.
These two things are linked so tightly that the president of the World Bank fears that widespread upheaval is around the corner.
On the eve on\f this week's World Bank summit, Jim Yong Kim told Great Britain's The Guardian that battles over affordable food and clean water are likely to break out within the next five to 10 years as the planet gets warmer and the world's leaders keep arguing over what to do about it.
"The water issue is critically related to climate change," Kim said. "People say that carbon is the currency of climate change. Water is the teeth. Fights over water and food are going to be the most significant direct impacts of climate change in the next five to 10 years. There's just no question about it."
Of course, the World Bank is helping to fuel that inequality by encouraging the global push to privatize drinking water and public utilities, and Kim's acknowledgement of the problems that the one-two punch of inequality and climate change will create do not necessarily translate into action. But at least it is now on the table, and it needs to be.
The IPCC report couldn't have been clearer. "We live in an era of man-made climate change," said Vicente Barros, the co-chair of the working group that prepared the report. "In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future."
Yet it is almost a dead certainty that the current cast of characters in Washington will do little to deal with a world filled with droughts, floods, wildfires, super-sized tornadoes and hurricanes, killer heat waves, and unprecedented weather extremes.
That's because too many of them are in the thrall of big money.
The Supreme Court's decision to overturn McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission eliminated overall limits on what individuals can contribute to candidates, parties and political action committees during the two-year federal election cycle.
Taken together with the court's 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision that allowed corporations to independently spend unlimited amounts of money to influence politics, we now have no curbs on the wealthiest Americans who want to spend as much as they see fit to elect politicians who will give them tax cuts, as well as bailouts, subsidies, and deregulation for their businesses so they can get even wealthier.
In the 2012 election, the combined political spending of the 10 largest labor unions was $153.4 million. The combined spending of political groups funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch was $412.6 million.
And even though this year's Congressional elections are months away, the Kochs have already spent $30 million on attack ads against Democratic candidates, and are committed to spending as much as necessary to achieve their goal of helping the Republicans hold on to the House of Representatives and retake the U.S. Senate.
If you still wonder why the richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans, this is the reason why: By rigging the political game to in their favor, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.
The Koch brothers, like many of those 400 richest Americans, rely on the continued burning of fossil fuel to build their fortunes. They will buy the politicians they need so that the status quo remains, while the planet gets hotter and the poorest on this planet suffer even more.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.