President Trump is poised to withdraw the U.S. from a major international climate deal championed by President Obama and signed by almost every nation in the world. On top of rolling back Obama’s climate change efforts, sending a message that the environment isn’t a U.S. priority, and damaging foreign relations, pulling out of the Paris Agreement will inevitably hurt women everywhere.
Poor women don’t have the resources to adapt to the environmental changes brought on by climate change, and past natural disasters have proven that women have a harder time recuperating, are victimized, and are more likely to die than men.
Trump plans to announce the decision this week and is working with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to determine how the U.S. will remove itself from the accord, which could take three years. Russia is the only other industrialized country that has rejected the agreement.
In case you’re wondering exactly what this climate deal entails, here’s the gist: Participating nations all pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by different amounts, and the deal requires them to regularly report back on their emissions and plans to reduce them. The Obama administration committed the U.S. to a 26 to 28% decrease in emissions by 2025, but the agreement doesn’t legally hold countries to their pledged goals.
What the opponents don’t talk about, though, is how climate change disproportionately affects women around the world. Changes to the environment impact everyone, but — like most issues — who is most impacted comes down to socioeconomic class.
The poor have less resources available to adapt to a changing environment, find alternative food sources when theirs disappear, and rebuild homes destroyed in natural disasters. Since women are more likely to live in poverty and women in poor countries have less power when it comes to their families’ economic assets, the class issue becomes a women’s issue.
With less resources to leave the area, and often children and parents to care for, women are more likely to die in natural disasters (which are worsened by warming weather). During the 1995 Kobe earthquake, 1.5 times as many women as men died; and during the 2004 Asian tsunami, three times as many women as men died, according to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) report.
The deeper impacts of climate change on women exist everywhere from sub-Sahara Africa to the U.S. Two years after Hurricane Katrina, women had a harder time returning to work and getting back on their feet. Labor participation was still down 6.6% for women, and only 3.8% for men in the area, according to a 2008 report from Tulane University’s Newcomb College Center for Research on Women.
Women also become more vulnerable to violence during disasters. The IWPR report shows that gender-based violence (including sexual assault and domestic violence) increased from 4.6 per 100,000 to 16.3 per 100,000 each day in Mississippi when women were displaced during Katrina.
Refusing to acknowledge climate change’s detrimental effects on the world also means a refusal to acknowledge the ways it puts the lives and livelihood of many women around the world at risk.. Removing the U.S. from the international agreement to combat harmful emissions not only proves the environment isn’t a priority for the Trump administration, it proves women aren’t a priority, either.
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