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Copenhagen, Climate Change and Why it Matters to Women

Sung-ok Lee is the Assistant General Secretary of the Section of Christian Social Action, Women’s Division of the United Methodist Women.

For many in government and industry circles, the discussion around the topic of climate change crisis focuses on energy efficiency, cap and trades and adjusting environmental policy to meet financial and economic ends.  For people all over the world, it’s a very real crisis, the effects of which they are already witnessing.  But for many people of faith, including me, climate change is a primary moral challenge of our time, and the upcoming United Nations Summit on Climate Change gives us a unique opportunity to call attention to the need to reverse this dangerous trend.

As believers, we see the need to tackle climate change as a matter of social justice. Yes, it’s true that we cherish and want to preserve Creation, but we are also keenly aware that while the poorest 1 billion people on the planet are responsible for only 3 percent of total emissions, they disproportionately bear the brunt of the devastating effects of climate change as their homelands suffer exacerbated droughts and floods, unpredictable rain patterns and crop failures. By contrast, the U.S. and other wealthy nations have benefited greatly from growth and prosperity fueled by carbon-based economies. Although our nation comprises only about 4-5% of the world’s population, we are responsible for about 25% of historical emissions. 

I am also concerned about the effects of climate change on women and girls the world over.  This week, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) released a report called State of World Population 2009.  What it reveals in terms of the impact of global warming on women and girls around the world is startling.  The report points out that the female half of the world’s population is indeed disproportionately more affected by the effects of climate change. 

While it’s true that all around the planet people are feeling the effects of global warming, women in developing countries are among the most vulnerable because they tend to make up a larger share of the agricultural workforce and typically don’t have access to income-generating opportunities.  Because they are in charge of households and family care, women are limited in their mobility, so that when tragedy strikes in the form of weather-related natural disasters, they are highly susceptible to the loss of livelihood, home, loved ones or event their own lives.

UNFPA’s report highlights how girls often drop out of school to help their mothers secure food, water and energy.  As climate affects their livelihoods, women often bear the increased financial burden by taking on extra jobs to support their families.  Of greater consequence is that while stuck in this cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality, these women and girls are unable to build the necessary social capital – like education, political power, and influence in their communities – to effectively take on climate change.

As global leaders gather in Copenhagen next month for the UN Summit on Climate Change, a four-person delegation of United Methodist Women committed to social justice will travel to Denmark to lend their voices to the women and the many others who are not able to attend and speak for themselves.  The team hopes to meet fellow advocates and learn what other organizations and governments the world over are doing to combat climate change.  The delegation will not only to press for strong, binding and fair greenhouse gas emissions targets, but will also demand that the U.S. join other nations to provide adaptation aid to the most vulnerable communities.

It is crucial that the governments of the U.S. and other industrialized nations responsible for greenhouse gas emissions implement effective and comprehensive, science-based approaches to reversing global warming.  As women of faith and advocates for social justice, we see it as our duty to hold global leaders accountable and ask that they assist developing nations to adapt to climate change, address energy poverty, and grow in ways that reduce poverty while protecting the environment.

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posted November 22, 2009 at 7:39 am

Why are you pushing Marxism? Yoking yourself with unbleivers?
What does the light have to do with darkness?
Leftist politics is all about Marxism.
It’s creepy seeing people that claim to be Christians preaching this Marxist dogma. When will you being supporting a mark on the head or hand to keep track on our carbon footprint?

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posted November 23, 2009 at 3:56 pm

This is such a joke. Do you people who believe in man-made global warming also still believe the earth is flat?
Just curious.

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posted November 24, 2009 at 8:13 am

The difference in the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the air is enormous. There are fluctuations in weather/climate but we have added so much more to the mix. My concern is also for developing countries. If we think that people are not going to do everything they can to survive we will be surprised.
4% of the world’s population lives in the US and we use way more than our fair share of the resources. For people of faith trying to make a better plan is good for the earth and for people. Jesus called for us to be kingdom builders on this earth.

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Your Name

posted November 24, 2009 at 5:57 pm

This does not make sense. How can flood and drought just pick on the poor. If climet change was real it would affect every country equally. I beleive in God not the Scientist or the Government. If it were not for the “Energy Users” that produce,,, the poor would have no assistnce at all. Climate change is a way to tear down the people of the world and leave only the Kings and the Preist in charge. Lets all of us produce all we can using what energy is necessary, and provide more jobs, more inovation, more schools, and more producers.

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posted November 24, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Total bunk. An attempt for the King and the Preist to control the people. I tell you the Bible is right every time. The King and the Priest used to control people with the sword, now they use science. Someone tell these people to read the Bible. You can not help anyone by taking, you only help by giving.

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posted November 29, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I am saddened to see comments trying to justify inactions on climate change. In Luke Chapter 10 an expert of the law tried to test Jesus and justify his inactions in loving his neighbor as the law required. You know the parable of the Good Samaritian. After reciting the law to Jesus on how to inherit eternal life the man asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Sung Ok’s article describes our present day neighbors that are suffering from climate change. The women and children from developing countries who don’t have the resources to adapt to severe weather patterns influenced by climate change. Like it or not, climate change will be the defining issue of the 21st century. The decisions we make now will affect generations to come. We must love our neighbors enough to make a personal committment to reduce our carbon footprint and be advocates for those not able to speak for themselves. Climate change is a moral issue. We must insist that the governments of the U.S. and other industrialized nations responsible for greenhouse gas emissions implement effective and comprehensive, science-based approaches to reversing global warming. As a Green Team member of the United Methodist Women and as a woman of faith, I hold global leaders accountable and ask that they assist developing nations to adapt to climate change, address energy poverty, and grow in ways that reduce poverty while protecting the environment.
Over 95% of scientists world wide recognize climate change is real and have scientific evidence that actions to reduce carbon emissions must be made as well as actions to adapt to changes already happening. I will not base my decisions or my children’s future on the 5% of scientists that believe global warming is a hoax. We are far past that argument and must now focus on ways to protect God’s Creation for All God’s People.

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posted November 29, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Ellen – It’s unfortunate that you dogmatically believe in something that has been proven to be NOT happening and, in fact, a scam. You really should ask yourself, “How much evidence do I need before I’m willing to CHANGE my beliefs?

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posted December 1, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Sam – It is unfortunate that you don’t know what you are talking about. The last paragraph of my earlier post says it all – over 95% of scientists recognize climate change is real. The other 5% are owned by the oil companies. The debate is over.

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Prof. Cricket

posted December 2, 2009 at 9:33 am

Great guest column Sung-Ok,
Your Name, you ask how climate change affects the poor more? Because the poor are more dependent on the basic resources of the earth. Poor women are the ones who walk each day for water for their families, the poor are being squeezed out of their subsistence farms. The impact of a flood or a hurricane is more on a person living on edge of poverty than a person with money.

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posted December 2, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Your statistic is absurd and completely untrue. And did you not learn anything from the recent “Climategate” scandal?
Furthermore, I can disprove “man-made global warming” right now: The whole premise of anthropogenic global warming is that the increase in use of fossil fuels by humans is causing the global temperature to also increase. Well, the use of fossil fuels has increased exponentially over the last 11 years, but the global temperature is cooling. Global warming is false.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 9:38 am

Hackers and their Big Oil co-conspirators have shown that they can
break the law and can cherry pick internal emails to serve their bottom line, but they have done NOTHING to change decades of climate science and the need for urgent action.
The latest attack on climate science is simply another attempt to
distract from the reality that the world is warming more than ever and the buildup of heat-trapping pollution in our atmosphere is at an
all-time high. Big Oil will stop at nothing to plant doubt about the threat of climate change. Now with help from dumpster diving hackers, they’ve seized on illegally obtained emails to attack the scientists themselves.
Blessings to President Obama and our delegation attending the climate talks in Copenhagen!

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posted December 9, 2009 at 10:23 am

If you think “Climategate” is a “Big Oil” super conspiracy, then all of the sound scientific evidence in the world will not convince you. Furthermore, whenever you are clearly upset with the hackers (and not even mildly upset with the lying scientists), there is simply is no hope for you. So…
Enjoy your fantasy. We’ll wake you up when they switch back to “Man-made global cooling” so you can get all caught up on the newest leftist craze.

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Christian Women with Faith

posted December 14, 2009 at 9:40 am

Climate change matters because severe climate change could wreck the planet as we know it. However, we are not causing the climate to change. The Dinosaurs didn’t do it either. There is not even untampered proof that it has gone up a degree or not. And it it has, remember that this is natural for the planet to change up and down from eon to eon. Agree or Disagree?

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posted June 23, 2010 at 8:12 am

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