Thanks to Lisa Hymas for this report on a recent study looking at the correlation between women’s status and CO2 emissions.
More power for women means less climate pollution, study suggests
By Lisa Hymas
Here is yet another indication that women are greener than men.
According to a new study in Social Science Research, “controlling for other factors, in nations where women’s status is higher, CO2 emissions are lower.”
Study coauthors Christina Ergas and Richard York, sociologists at the University of Oregon–Eugene, write:
even when controlling for a variety of measures of “modernization,” world-system position, and democracy, nations where women have higher political status — as indicated by the length of time women have had the right to vote and women’s representation in parliament and ministerial government — tend to have lower CO2 emissions per capita. This ﬁnding suggests that efforts to improve women’s political status around the world, clearly worthy on their own merits, may work synergistically with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and avert dramatic global climate change.
Ergas and York say they can’t explain why this correlation exists, but, among other potential reasons, it’s “possible that women make different decisions than do men when placed in positions of power.” Like, say, not giving away the family store to oil barons, not building a massive, leak-prone, climate-screwing pipeline right down the middle of the country, not squandering $4 trillion on two simultaneous, senseless wars …
If we want better decisions, women need to hold about one-third of decision-making positions, according to research cited by Ergas and York. At lower levels of representation, women’s “voices may be ignored, they may feel too intimidated to comment, or they may not be particularly representative of women in general, having been selected because their views were consistent with the men in the organization.”
The Ergas/York paper includes an interesting overview of recent social science research on gender and the environment. A few choice nuggets:
- “nations with higher proportions of women in parliament ratify a greater number of environmental treaties”
- “women in the United States demonstrate greater scientiﬁc knowledge of climate change”
- women “tend to perceive environmental risks as more threatening”
- women “are less optimistic about the potential to solve problems by relying solely on technical ﬁxes”
- women “are more active in environmental reform projects”
- “although they are not as active as men in mainstream environmental organizations, women are estimated to make up 60% to 80% of grassroots environmental organization membership”
- “women often cite their roles as caregivers as the primary reason they are active in grassroots environmental movements”
Here in the U.S., as of last year, men held 83.2 percent of seats in Congress, 88 percent of governorships, and 76.7 percent of state legislator positions. No wonder we’re such a mess.
Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.
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