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Climate Change-Driven Prostitution Claim In House Resolution Makes For Misleading Headlines

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CLIMATE CHANGE PROSTITUTION
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), accompanied by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), speaks during a session titled "The U.S. Congress and the Global AIDS Epidemic" Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) | AP

The Internets were abuzz this week with tales of how Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), that notorious Berkeley liberal, introduced a resolution claiming that climate change forces women to be prostitutes. Another development in the Democrats' elaborate climate change hoax! Conservatives were righteously outraged.

Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller led with the headline, "Democrats: Global warming means more hookers." Michelle Malkin's Twitchy settled on, "We're screwed: Cong. Dems fear that climate change will drive women to prostitution." Less conservative outlets put "sex" in the headline for what are probably more mundane, traffic-related reasons.

It turns out that Lee's argument was not that warmer temperatures will turn the world into one big red light district. The resolution makes a somewhat more nuanced point.

Vulnerable communities in developing countries are already beginning to confront water scarcity, severe weather events and reduced agricultural productivity due to climate change, and women with limited access to basic needs are in an especially vulnerable position. Lee and her 11 Democratic cosponsors are asking Congress to acknowledge that climate change affects women, especially poor women, more than it affects men, and to develop "gender-sensitive frameworks" as they work to address it.

"It's unfortunate that this resolution has been misrepresented as to its goals," Lee wrote in a statement. "Tragically, as women across the world are pushed to the margins, they become more vulnerable. And we've seen time after time, that women on the edge are forced to make heartbreaking choices, this among them."

The resolution, introduced to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, is focused on not just any women, but on the world's poorest women -- those in developing nations with limited access to food, water and other necessities. The committee hasn't indicated whether it will advance the resolution, which, it should be noted, has no material effect on U.S. policies.

The language of the resolution reads:

Whereas women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change, particularly in poor and developing nations where women regularly assume increased responsibility for growing the family's food and collecting water, fuel, and other resources.

Whereas epidemics, such as malaria, are expected to worsen and spread due to variations in climate, putting women and children without access to prevention and medical services at risk.

Whereas food-insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health.

Whereas conflict has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable populations including women, and is fueled in the world's poorest regions by harsher climate, leading to migration, refugee crises, and conflicts over scarce natural resources including land and water.

Of course the bit about transactional sex made for better headlines, because who wants to write about water scarcity?

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