Poverty is down, median income is up and health coverage expanded last year. These gains are felt across all racial, ethnic, gender and age groups in the U.S. The gender pay gap, income inequality, unemployment rates – all decreasing. Both the poor and those with middle incomes saw economic gains in 2015, according to new U.S. Census data. And the economy even added more than 2.6 million jobs last year.
Sounds like cause for celebration, doesn’t it? But don’t break out the bubbly just yet. Although these figures are heartening, especially after so many years of increasing hardship in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, the news appears much better than it really is.
Forty-three million people still live in poverty in the U.S., including 14.5 million children.According to an analysis of the U.S. Census data, black women still take home just 63 cents compared to a white man’s dollar, and Latinas make a measly 54 cents per dollar.
In 2015, according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute, the gap in hourly wage pay between white and black workers widened to nearly 27 percent, the widest racial pay gap in 40 years. Further, the racial wealth gap is the highest it’s been in 30 years. Meanwhile, the richest Americans’ wealth has grown by an average of 736 percent. That’s 10 times the rate of wealth growth for the Latinos, and nearly 30 times the rate of growth for the black population, says a report by the Institute for Policy Studies.IPS’ analysis further finds that by the year 2043, that huge chasm in wealth between white people and black and Latino people will double if we don’t do something to change it.And to squeeze the last bit of helium out of that quickly deflating balloon celebrating new census data – median income for all but the richest 5 percent of Americans is still below pre-recession rates.
It sounds like a fine riddle: what can grow exponentially but still remain the same size? A new global deal on climate emissions from aviation promises just that: “carbon neutral growth” from an industry that is the world’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases.
When diplomats meet in Montreal this week for the triennial Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the results are likely to be prosaic: a delay in cutting emissions until 2021, at which time a voluntary scheme would be introduced that allows airlines to continue polluting by paying others to clean up for them. The controversial “carbon offsetting’”scheme at the heart of this proposal is likely to involve counting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions twice, posing a significant new threat to hopes of avoiding dangerous climate change.
The airline industry is currently responsible for about two per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions that play a lead role in causing climate change, but the impact of flying could be more than double that headline figure.
Without getting too technical, emissions from planes change the balance of energy in the atmosphere (‘radiative forcing’), as well as forming cirrus clouds (the contrails so beloved of conspiracy theorists) that can lock in further warming. Taking all of these factors into account, aviation is responsible for closer to five per cent of the climate change problem, a small but significant share. The bigger problem, though, is that flying is expected to be the fastest growing cause of climate change.
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