Climate change facts
● An estimated 4 million people die prematurely each year from household air pollution
● 18.8 million people were displaced because of climate related disasters in 2017
● 2.9 billion people in the developing world still use polluting fuels like wood, coal, and charcoal
● Only 35% of environmental sector ministries have a gender focal point
Impacts of climate change have been increasingly detrimental each year in every part of the world. As the last five years have set the record of becoming the hottest years in history, the rush for its mitigation has been more alarming than ever. Increasing temperatures, sea-level rises, changing patterns of precipitation, and more frequent and severe extreme events are expected to have largely adverse effects on key determinants of human health, including clean air and water, sufficient food and adequate shelter. Climate poverty and climate injustice has caused some parts of the population suffer drastically than others and women are one part of those populations.
Impact of climate change on women
Women constitute the majority of the world’s poor and often, their livelihoods are directly relying on the natural resources which are in threat because of climate change. Especially in rural areas of the world, livelihoods depend on local resources with women bearing the responsibilities of meeting the daily ends. Securing water, fuel for cooking, and managing the food have become some of the basic yet biggest challenges that climate change have brought upon. Women with social expectations to fulfill the mentioned roles have become direct victims of climate change. Women currently account for 45-80% of all food production in developing countries. About two-thirds of the female labor force in developing countries and more than 90% in many African countries are engaged in agriculture. Severe scarcity of traditional resources and drying water sources are maximizing each day.
In addition to impact on food security, climate change have all round effect on women’s lives including their health, economy and decision making rights. A review of census information on the effects of natural disasters across 141 countries showed that although disasters create hardships for everyone, on average they kill more women than men, or kill women at a younger age than men. This effect is strongest in countries where women have very low social, economic and political status. The study also found that natural disasters lower the life expectancy in women more than in men. In addition, rising temperatures due to climate change increases the chances of epidemics such as malaria in some locations, which already causes 300 million acute illnesses and kills almost 1 million people every year. Pregnant women are considered more vulnerable to malaria than non-pregnant women and men. Another link between pregnancy and climate change is seen in relation between pregnancy-induced hypertension which was found to be highest in June, when the temperature was very high and the humidity at its lowest. Also, the health of women gets at direct risk as the changes in season and increased dryness influences impacts in agriculture yields impact on nutritional status and path-physiology of women.
Scarcities of natural resources mean direct impact in the economical status of women. With traditional resources and means of income being unpredictable, women face loss of income and harvests which are the major source of income in agricultural countries. That causes an increase in food prices making it inaccessible to poor people, on the shortage of which women and girls’ health are at more risks. Besides that, women are already disproportionately feeling the impacts of climate change, and the large gender gap in employment and wages makes women less able to respond. Majority of women in developing countries are involved in informal sectors with poor payment and lack of social protections like maternity leave, health coverage, and childcare and other social support services which makes them further difficult to tackle climate change challenges. In urban areas, women’s security issues lead to their choice of private vehicles resulting in climate deterioration.
Furthermore, climate change directly interrelates to women’s rights and decision making status.
Women, mostly in developing countries have limited authority of decision making over lands and resources when they are the ones facing the consequences directly. Therefore, it is important to address the impact they have due to climate change and how it affects the global sustainable development and at the same time, value their roles in mitigating the life threatening impacts.
Reasons why women should be on the frontline of climate change mitigation
Women who are directly facing the climate change impacts are also the ones adapting and exploring different ways to deal with it on a daily level. Therefore, their vast knowledge and expertise should be prioritized and considered while figuring out the mitigation approaches. Their ownership over household responsibilities place them well to contribute to livelihood strategies and adapting to changing environment conditions. Specifically mentioning, there are some reasons why women need to be in the frontline of the mitigation:
– 51% of humanity is comprised of women and girls. To meet the most ambitious 1.5C target of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and to limit warming to well below 2C, it is critical that the needs, perspectives, and ideas of women, as well as of men, are included in climate action so as to create just, effective, and sustainable solutions.
– Women, who constitute 43% of agricultural labor, when provided with equal access to resources can contribute in increasing agricultural yields which will reduce world hunger and poverty to better adapt to climate change.
– Targeted investments in gender equality and women’s empowerment yield returns in environmental conservation, poverty alleviation, social policy and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).