After Copenhagen, Depend on Women to Keep The Momentum on Climate Change

December 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Politics, Science

Kim Knowlton, Science Fellow on Global Warming and Health for the Natural Resources Defense Council, has been reporting from Copenhagen for Women’s Media Center. Below, Knowlton reports that as WVFC readers may have expected, the real heavy lifting on climate change is and will be done by women, many of whom have experienced its effects firsthand.

knowltonAs world leaders continue to arrive in Copenhagen for the final days of critical climate negotiations, the stakes for all of us couldn’t be higher. Women have been engaged throughout the negotiations—from high-level office holders to grassroots leaders who claim their place on the world stage by speaking out for their vulnerable constituencies.

For years women have organized behind the scenes to prepare for the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-15), and official sessions today focus on “Climate and Gender,” with side events also scheduled to highlight “Women as Agents of Change.”

Earlier in the week—at a “Women’s Leadership on Climate Justice” program moderated by former Irish President Mary Robinson and keynoted by Canadian Inuit organizer Shelia Watt-Cloutier—activists described how women have intimate knowledge of the human cost of global warming. Women and their children, members of impoverished populations living in challenged environments, are most at risk. They are critically aware of the need to enact lasting change to protect themselves and the communities they care for from the climate crisis.

Most of us imagine global warming as polar bears stranded on melting ice floes, threatened low-lying coasts, and disappearing tropical forests. While these are environmental effects of deep concern, the story of global warming is a human health story—and that gets less attention.

Earlier this year, I wrote a commentary for this site on how international physicians’ organizations joined together to sound the alarm about global warming as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” Science—including data from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, sponsored by both Democratic and Republican administrations over the last 20 years—has shown that global warming is unequivocal and directly affects human health, both internationally and right here at home.

Click here to read the rest of this story, including a fuller biography of Kim Knowlton and more video.