Sofia Lopez Simpson is a second year International Relations student. Her hobbies and interests include playing the guitar and spending hours making spotify playlists.
Climate change is inevitably affecting everyone’s lives, though it should be noted that women and men experience it differently. Climate change is also affecting the poorest communities the most, as unpredictable natural disasters have led to people not having access to basic human necessities like food and water. Importantly, 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women and there is a deep-rooted link between climate change and gender. Climate change is known to be affecting women the numerous ways which will be discussed below.
Women are the most affected by Climate Change as it inevitably impacts their work and economic position. Research analyst of Climate Analytics, Marina Andrijevic, explained how “There’s a solid base of evidence showing that women are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change, not because there is something inherently vulnerable about women, but because of socio-cultural structures that deprive women of access to resources, decision-making, information, agency, etc.” For example, even when women are the main source of income in their households, they are not able to focus on gaining education and developing their careers as they often have to overcome the negative effects of natural disaster like floods and droughts caused by climate change.
Droughts as a result of increasing weather temperatures reduce access to water, and hence, women have to commute longer distances in order to cook, clean, and work to sustain their families. For instance, scholar Stephanie Buechler found a correlation between water scarcity and women’s ability to invest in their careers. Moreover, the damage done to women’s land-based work opportunities limits the forms of work available to them. This therefore restricts their income which reduces their chances of being economically independent.
Climate change is also leading to increasing gender inequality. Although climate change agreements aim at battling gender inequality as a cause of environmental depletion, existing inequalities have been exacerbated by the realities of climate change. Existing gender inequality in different parts of the world can hinder women’s ability to adapt to climate change. Moreover, climate change increases the threat of gender-based violence during and after natural disasters as women have to move away from their homes, as this can lead to adolescent pregnancy and trafficking. Furthermore, systemic violence is predicted to increase during periods of instability which limit women’s access to basic human rights like freedom of movement and obtaining land.
However, not many people are aware of the power women have when it comes to battling climate change. Women have been leaders in movements against climate change and promoting the importance of policy change to take care of our planet. Charity Action Aid, for example, focuses on helping women gain leadership roles in the fight against climate change. Others, like ActionAid, allow women to access new sources of income and be leaders. Natividad, a Filipino woman who described how she has been badly affected by climate disasters as “farmers are struggling” and “our crops and plants are damaged” leading to a reduction in production, rightly points out, “Women should be leaders because they have the right to lead,” she continued, “We are aware of our rights, and we also have talents and skills that men might not have.”
Women are badly affected by climate change, yet they could be the key to battling it. The effects of climate change are preventing women in the poorest communities from having prosperous lives. However, women’s leadership has led to increased attention from political activists to the issue of climate change. Scholar Mayesha Alam argues that women’s “participation and leadership can have transformative effects in their countries and communities.” Female climate activists such as Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakata have been crucial in these movements. They have managed to mobilize people around the world towards a common cause and their presence in international institutions has been important to bring change to the international system. Women should not be solely viewed as victims of climate change but rather as an essential force to tackle it. Therefore, measures need to be taken in order to increase their presence and reduce the effects of climate change in their lives.
“Climate Change and Gender.” ActionAid UK. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://www.actionaid.org.uk/our-work/emergencies-disasters-humanitarian-response/climate-change-and-gender.
“Women…in the Shadow of Climate Change.” United Nations. United Nations. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/womenin-shadow-climate-change.
Mcarthy, Joe. “Understanding Why Climate Change Impacts Women More than Men.” Global Citizen, March 5, 2020. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/how-climate-change-affects-women/.
“Gender and Climate Change.” IUCN, December 5, 2018. https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/gender-and-climate-change.
“Tackling Gender Inequality Is ‘Crucial’ for Climate Adaptation.” Carbon Brief, April 26, 2021. https://www.carbonbrief.org/tackling-gender-inequality-is-crucial-for-climate-adaptation.
Elwell, Natalie, and Yasmine Williams. “If You Care about the Environment, You Should Care about Gender.” World Resources Institute, March 7, 2016. https://www.wri.org/insights/if-you-care-about-environment-you-should-care-about-gender.