The East Coast is being buried by snow again, just another a storm in what’s already been a record-setting winter. It’s not just the U.S. that’s been hard hit; much of the world has faced bitter cold snaps, often with deadly consequences. House fires caused by space heaters have claimed lives across the U.S. In Italy, there have been deadly avalanches. Scores have died from the deep freeze in Europe. And in Florida, farmers have been struggling to save their citrus crop and thereby prevent economic catastrophe.
Who has suffered the most because of the unusual cold? The poor: They tend to live in less well-insulated homes, struggle with higher utility bills, and have longer commutes and less capable vehicles, making getting around more hazardous. And women tend to be poorer than men. In the U.S. alone, millions of families headed by single females live in poverty.
Using a trusty logical equation familiar to junior-high-schoolers everywhere, we conclude that since A=B and A=C, it must be that B=C — and therefore, women are disproportionately harmed by the weather. Yet this equation applies to most adverse events: Whether it’s a natural disaster, an economic downturn, or a pandemic, the poor have fewer resources to adjust to tough times, and women are more likely than men to be poor.
Knowing the public’s natural sympathy for women, politicians seize on women’s hardship by claiming their preferred policies will help the ladies. Take climate change, which the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) promises will wreak weather havoc. At a “roundtable on women” in Copenhagen, House speaker Nancy Pelosi somberly intoned that women will bear the brunt of man-made global warming. As Pelosi explained: “Women have the most to gain and the most to lose in the climate crisis. The impacts are not gender-neutral; as the primary users, managers, and stewards of natural resources, women feel the consequences first.”
It’s not clear what the speaker meant by women being the primary “users, managers, and stewards” of our environment, since men and women do about an equal amount of breathing, eating, and living. Pelosi fell into that awkward feminist habit of suggesting that women have special intuitive insights into the world’s problems. (This habit persists even though feminists usually insist women and men are exactly the same. If a man implies that women are more sensitive, “sensitive” is interpreted as meaning “weaker,” and he’s labeled a sexist.)
Hyperbole and feminist doublespeak aside, Pelosi’s point is basically the same old B=C: Women are poorer and so will be hurt more if the globe warms dramatically. That’s probably true, though Pelosi seems intent on painting as bleak a picture as possible:
Changing agricultural conditions will hit women hardest. In most developing countries, women produce the vast majority of the household food supply. It is the world’s grandmothers, mothers, and sisters in most countries who fetch water, gather wood and prepare meals. As resources become more scarce, so do opportunities for these women to attend school, tend crops, and lift themselves out of poverty.
Yes, that great ladder of prosperity for women — subsistence agriculture — is threatened by resource scarcity, which is presumably related to global warming. Yet the real problem for Speaker Pelosi and her fellow travelers is that women will also be the ones most harmed by their supposed fight against climate change.
Proposals to reduce CO2 emissions would make carbon-based energy more expensive. That means prices for everything — from the gas that heats our homes and fuels our cars, to the food we eat and everyday products we use — would rise. Lower-income families — disproportionately women and female-headed households — spend a larger share of their money on these basic goods and services, so the rising prices would hit them the hardest.
American women wouldn’t be the only ones hit hard. As the Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg has explained, international proposals to combat climate change would cost trillions. There’s no guarantee that they would meaningfully affect the climate. But enormous resources would with certainty be diverted from other activities, such as fighting malnutrition, developing new drugs, and growing economies. Even women from areas the IPCC claims would be most disadvantaged by global warming would be best served by investments that offer clear improvements in quality of life. Women, especially poor women, often are more at risk both from adverse life events and bad public policy. Politicians who play logic games with the plight of women, be warned: Once the public sees the math for itself, you may find yourself out of the equation.
– Carrie Lukas is vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum.