Chapman University Study Finds California’s Climate Change Agenda Has Come at the Expense of State’s Poorest

(Orange, Ca) The Center for Demographics & Policy at Chapman University has published new research that concludes California leadership’s progressive agenda focus on climate change has been at the expense of those in lower socio-economic communities, primarily ethnic minorities such as Latinos and African-Americans.

The Report entitled, “California, Greenhouse Gas Regulation, and Climate Change” was produced by Jennifer Hernandez and David Friedman. Copy of the 110-page document can be found by clicking here.

The report is an analysis of the impact of AB32.  According to the California State website, “In 2006, the Legislature passed the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 [Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32)], which created a comprehensive, multi-year program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in California.  AB 32 required the California Air Resources Board (ARB or Board) to develop a Scoping Plan that describes the approach California will take to reduce GHGs to achieve the goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  The Scoping Plan was first approved by the Board in 2008 and must be updated every five years. The First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan was approved by the Board on May 22, 2014.  In 2016, the Legislature passed SB 32, which codifies a 2030 GHG emissions reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels.  With SB 32, the Legislature passed companion legislation AB 197, which provides additional direction for developing the Scoping Plan.  ARB is moving forward with a second update to the Scoping Plan to reflect the 2030 target set by Executive Order B-30-15 and codified by SB 32.”

Income by Race in California 2007-2016 Source: US Census
Income by Race in California 2007-2016 Source: US Census. Chart reflects Latinos and Blacks at a dramatically depressed income compared to other ethnic groups, with Latinos having the lowest % of people in the middle and highest income brackets and the highest % in the lowest income bracket.

The study’s 5 major findings include the following

1- The CARB Scoping Plan results in highly regressive cost burdens that particularly affect basic living expenses, including housing, transportation, heat and electricity for the state’s historically disadvantaged, and now majority minority populations, as well as less affluent and educated residents in all demographic groups.

2- Climate policy related energy cost increases have a much more damaging effect in California’s inland regions, where winter and summer conditions are much more extreme than in coastal areas, and where Latino and less affluent households have increasingly clustered to find affordable housing. The state’s inland population is also required to commute longer distances to work.

3-California’s climate program also reduces the state’s ability to generate higher wage jobs for residents without college degrees in manufacturing or other industries highly sensitive to energy and housing costs.

4- California’s wealthy, coastal environmental advocates also routinely lobby to shut down or deny approvals of projects that would create working and middle class jobs, even when such jobs would help achieve global greenhouse gas reductions (GHG’s).

5- Although California’s climate programs include the allocation of at least some of the new, highly regressive GHG-related fees and taxes to assist poorer Californians affected by higher energy and housing costs, most of the available funding has benefited the acquisition of rooftop solar and electric vehicles b  wealthier residents comprising the top 20% of the state’s income earners.

The report suggests that loyalty from ethnic minorities to the Democratic Party is not well placed considering the economic hardship democratic policies have placed on those in lower socio-economic levels.

While many reports show California having an economic boon, Hernandez and Friedman suggest that a majority of this economic increase over the last 10 years has been concentrated in Silicon Valley which has skewed the numbers for the state.

California Voter Demographics

The Public Policy Institute of California published analysis of California voter demographics.

California Voters Demographics
California Voter Demographics. Source: Public Policy Institute of California

The report concludes, “An overwhelming majority of African American likely voters (76%) and a solid majority of Latino likely voters (63%) are registered as Democrats. Among Asian American likely voters, a majority (52%) are registered as Democrats, 15% as Republicans, and 29% as independents (previously called “decline to state” and now called “no party preference” voters). Party registration among white likely voters is more evenly divided, with 38% registered as Democrats, 38% as Republicans, and 19% as independents.”

Analysis of Ventura County

The Chapman University report includes analysis Ranking Oxnard- Thousand Oaks- Ventura as one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

“A national survey of housing, food, medical and other costs conducted by the Council for Community & Economic Research showed that in 2017, California was the second most expensive state in the nation, just after Hawaii, and had a cost index about 41% higher than average.”
“In 2016, seven of the ten most expensive regions in the country in an analysis of 349 regions developed by the Census Bureau for the SPM poverty thresholds were located in California. The top two were the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan areas , followed by Santa Cruz-Watsonville (4th) Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura (6th), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (7th), Santa Maria-Santa Barbara (9th) and San Diego-Carlsbad (10th). All had relative cost index values ranging from 50% (San Diego-Carlsbad) to 87% (San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara) above the national average.”
The report goes on to say, “The only portions of the state that grew more rapidly since 2007 were the San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara regions. Employment growth in every other location declined in 2007-2017, including by about 50% in the Santa Rosa and Los-Angeles metropolitan areas to well over 70% in Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine (-74%), Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (-76%), Bakersfield (-82%) and Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura (-92%).

Conclusion & Analysis

The report analysis states, “Effective climate regulations require transparency and accountability to California consumers and voters.
As discussed in Section 2, the 1972 Clean Air Act reduced vehicular tailpipe emissions by 99%, and  dramatically reduced emissions from manufacturing, powerplants, and scores of other pollution sources, in a series of regulations that began as proposals informed by both costs and benefits. CARB has to date failed to disclose the true costs, and the global GHG reduction consequences, of any of the Scoping Plan measures.
State policies have instead been evaluated against potential “avoided” future costs such as enhanced flood protection, even though California accounts for a minuscule amount of anthropogenic GHG emissions in future IPCC scenarios. The use of highly aggregated and speculative cost information to assess climate change policy impacts must cease. The real consequences of high cost, dense housing, the decline of working and middle class employment, slower job growth in those portions of the state that do not have the Bay Area’s resources or demographics, and lower homeownership must be quantified and disclosed for all income and ethnic groups in the state.”
The report concludes that, “The only real impact California can have on global GHG emissions, and potential temperature changes over the next 80 years, is by implementing common sense measures that do not disproportionately hurt large segments of the population and can, in the best case, only be realized in a region like the Bay Area with enormous wealth and unique workforce demographics.
The state’s climate policies must respect the social equity principles of the Paris Agreement, comply with civil rights and equal protection laws, and build a sustainable political consensus that includes feasible solutions to the epidemic of poverty and lack of housing in California. At the same time, the state must stop pretending that massively costly programs with relatively small, if not minute GHG reduction benefits like high speed rail and urban densification are praiseworthy and effective means for addressing climate change while the state exports people, jobs, and the goods and services it consumes to higher-emission locations.”