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Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change
ties—power plants, carbon sequestration facilities, production sites for renewables, and expansion of the electric grid—all of which are subject to environmental review. Because environmental review for major public projects can take years or even decades to complete (Altshuler and Luberoff, 2003), and lengthy review processes add to costs and project risk, there is growing discussion of streamlining these processes. Environmental justice advocates have raised concerns that this sort of streamlining can lead to less powerful interest groups being more easily ignored.
Given the numerous ways in which currently disadvantaged groups could be adversely affected by policies for limiting climate change (as well as by the impacts of climate change itself), careful attention needs to be paid to procedural equity concerns and efforts to ensure full engagement of disadvantaged populations. The affected parties need a seat at the table in discussions of how to avoid harmful impacts from the outset, or how to correct for unanticipated adverse impacts that may arise. Ensuring access of low-income and other disenfranchised populations to programs and incentives for reducing energy demand and utilizing low-carbon energy technologies is not just a matter of fairness. It is also a matter of practical necessity, as achieving major GHG emissions reductions will be very difficult unless all segments of American society are participating in these efforts.
Equity concerns raise a number of substantive policy design and implementation issues to be considered by policy makers. This includes, for example, consideration of policies that redistribute revenues to low-income households to offset the regressive effects of higher energy prices, policies for avoiding co-pollutant hot spots, policies that create new clean-energy jobs and industries in disadvantaged communities, and policies to avoid further penalizing the already limited mobility of many poor and minority communities. Processes for establishing GHG emissions-reduction policies should thus include broad, sustained public participation efforts. There is a substantial literature about the mechanisms for effective public participation in environmental decision making (e.g., Beierle, 1998; NRC, 2008) to which we refer the reader for further consideration of this issue.
KEY CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Low-income groups consume less energy per capita and therefore contribute less to associated GHG emissions. Yet, low-income and some disadvantaged minority groups are likely to suffer disproportionately from adverse impacts of climate change and, absent proactive policies, may also be adversely affected by policies to limit climate change. For instance, energy-related goods make up a larger share of expenditures in