07/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Call for Some Much Needed Sisterhood on This Planet

As a global ambassador for Oxfam America, I serve as one of a dozen "Sisters of the Planet" that advocate for those most adversely affected by the impacts of climate change in the developing world. On behalf of the sisters on the planet, I urge congress to vote "yes" on one of most important environmental and economic protection bills of our time: the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act.

Climate change poses one of the greatest challenges in the 21st century to efforts to reduce poverty and promote development. It's a serious global threat that demands an urgent global response. The scientific consensus is compelling, and we must act now on behalf of developed and developing nations.

Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world -- access to water, food production and public health. Experts suggest that hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms. All countries will be affected.

Although it affects our entire planet, it has a disproportionate impact on people in poor communities, especially women. When natural disasters strike, they hit poor communities first and worst. That's why I recently was in Washington lobbying leaders in Congress to use their considerable influence to address the impacts of climate change on women in developing countries and in poor communities in the United States. I'm pleased that there are current provisions in the bill that allocate a portion of revenues from capping-and-trading greenhouse gases to help developing countries adapt to the effects of a changing climate.

Women in vulnerable communities are particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and will benefit greatly from adaptation projects. In developing countries, women often depend on rainfall to water their crops; they are typically responsible for providing their household's water, food and fuel supply; and they are less likely to have the education, opportunities, and resources they need to adapt to climate impacts.

Low-income women in the United States also are disproportionately affected by climate-related disasters. For example, Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the affordable housing throughout the Gulf Coast, displacing more than 83% of poor, single mothers. Those types of natural disasters are projected to worsen as temperatures continue to rise from higher concentrations of pollution that causes global warming.

Impacts of climate change already are happening. The melting of ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica is causing sea levels to rise. Island nations and coastal regions already face seawater flooding and erosion. Extreme weather events, including severe hurricanes, heat waves, floods, and drought, appear to be increasing in frequency and severity. Hotter days mean more heat stress on young and elderly, and more smog leading to more asthma.

There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we take strong action now. Our primary focus must be on changing the practices and policies that contribute to the pollution that causes global warming. Slowing global deforestation and sharing innovative clean technologies are examples of policies that can slow the planet's warming.

I'm extremely pleased that the federal climate bill includes strong provisions to help bring developing nations to be part of the solution to climate change. One part of the bill provides a major boost to international efforts to reduce the loss of the planet's irreplaceable tropical forests. These vast carbon storehouses are currently being cut down at such a rate that fully 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to deforestation.

Also, the Waxman-Markey bill sensibly creates incentives for technology transfer to the developing world -- helping to ensure that as the world's poor develop their economies, they do so with the clean technologies of tomorrow instead of the dirty technology of the past. And because many of these clean technologies are being developed by our own forward-thinking companies -- a large percentage of which are based right here in California -- helping developing countries buy green helps our economy as well as our environment.

I applaud the Obama Administration for their commitment to take steps to promote energy diversity, efficiency and security. A yes vote on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill is a vote for better global collaboration to protect and promote strong economies, and preparation for the inevitable changes of a warming planet on poor, vulnerable communities in the U.S. and throughout the world.