Understanding Climate Change and Gender Inequality

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

When you think about climate change does gender equality come to mind? As Georgie Johnson reports, we need to understand climate change through the lens of gender equality. As Johnson shows, climate change has different impacts on men and women, based on preexisting social and economic inequalities. Because most international efforts to address climate change do not include women, the resulting policies do not take into account the particular challenges that climate change poses for women and girls. This is ironic because, according to a 2014 European Union study, women are more likely than men to be concerned about climate change.

Johnson identifies two key factors to understanding climate change and gender. First, women (and other marginalized groups) are affected by climate change differently due to social and economic inequality. For example, women accounted for 61% of fatalities caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, 70–80% in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and 91% in the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh. As Johnson notes, inequality shapes these death rates. The reasons could be as simple as women not being taught to swim, or adhering to social expectations to stay at home unless chaperoned by a male. For women who do survive, the aftermath is also dangerous: Women are at greater risk to sexual assault and domestic abuse after natural disasters and in areas of conflict.

Second, and more affirmatively, women can nonetheless offer “incredibly powerful solutions to climate change,” because women comprise nearly three quarters of the global poor. This makes them “uniquely placed to share information about climate impacts and to implement solutions.” For instance, Johnson describes women farmers in El Salvador who have harnessed geothermal energy to replace wood and fossil fuels in their communities, saving 1.8 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

“If we had gender parity in politics,” Johnson writes, “climate change policy might have more teeth.”

Source: Georgie Johnson, “Why Climate Change Is a Gender Equality Issue,” Greenpeace Energy Desk, March 8, 2016, https://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/03/08/why-climate-change-gender-equality/.

Student Researcher: Noemi Garcia (Citrus College)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Citrus College)