Lambrini studies History and International Relations
The relationship between gender and climate change, to some, may seem tenuously linked. Climate change, evidently, affects us all. 2022 marked the sixth warmest year on record, with the rate of global warming having doubled since 1981. Natural disasters dominated the globe in 2022, with the Pakistan floods, European drought, and Hurricane Ian in the southeast US and Cuba being clear examples amongst many others. It is, however, untrue to claim that climate change affects us all to the same degree. An analysis of socioeconomic factors highlights this and when specifically looking at gender, research has consistently shown that the effects of climate change disproportionately impact women.
Across the globe, women largely take on the role of providing food and water to their family. Women also comprise 43% of the agricultural work force world-wide and produce 60-80% of food in the world. When natural disasters strike, the ability to work or provide nutrition comes into immediate threat. This is not only as a result of the fact that the land may become infertile, but also due to systemic restrictions placed on women in dealing with this. Women are not able to access property rights across approximately half of the world’s countries, meaning that purchasing more fertile land simply is not an option. Economic injustices related to gender are thus shown to increase the devastating effects of climate change, highlighting the relationship between global warming and gender.
These effects further extend to the experiences of women in their home lives, with heightened levels of domestic violence correlating to depleting natural resources. This has been linked to the process of displacement, where women represent 80% of those displaced. It has been reported that 1 in 5 women who are displaced go on to experience sexual violence. This increase in sexual abuse also locates itself in figures that show displacement links to higher levels of child marriage and human trafficking, where in both cases the majority of victims are women. Women human rights defenders have also been subject to violence, further extending our understanding of how climate change disproportionately affects women.
Integral to creating pioneering and effective solutions for climate change, is the inclusion of women. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement indicated that the relationship between gender and climate change would be emphasised. However, out of the 110 leaders present at COP27, only 7 were women, displaying the lack of women in positions of power. This fact, as a result of many deeply systemic reasons, once again leaves women out of conversations regarding issues which affect them most. This does not mean that women are not contributing to the finding of a solution. In fact, many global climate activists are women, and women across the globe are working toward improving the environment. One clear example of the active participation of women enabling solutions is Bangladeshi women, who are faced with the issue of growing water salinity, which the consumption of can have disastrous effects on their reproductive systems. In order to collect potable water innovative solutions have emerged as a result of their local knowledge amongst other factors. This example reflects many others across the globe and highlights the urgency of including women in the climate discourse. The truth of the matter is women are not reflected in institutions dealing with this issue to the extent that is necessary. Only when this is achieved will the relationship between gender and climate change begin to dissipate.
References: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature#:~:text=Earth’s%20temperature%20has%20risen%20by,0.18%C2%B0%20C)%20per%20decade. https://news.sky.com/story/10-most-costly-climate-change-related-disasters-in-2022-revealed-12774943 https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2019/03/25/women-in-half-the-world-still-denied-land-property-rights-despite-laws https://www.iucn.org/news/gender/202001/environmental-degradation-driving-gender-based-violence-iucn-study https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2022/07/climate-change-exacerbates-violence-against-women-and-girls https://time.com/5669038/women-climate-change-leaders/ https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/womenin-shadow-climate-change https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/explainer/2022/02/explainer-how-gender-inequality-and-climate-change-are-interconnected https://www.actionaid.org.uk/our-work/emergencies-disasters-humanitarian-response/climate-change-and-gender https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/how-climate-change-affects-women/ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-63636435 https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf https://neu.org.uk/advice/women-and-poverty#:~:text=More%20than%20one%20fifth%20of,14%20per%20cent%20of%20men https://unfccc.int/news/climate-change-increases-the-risk-of-violence-against-women https://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/the-impact-of-climate-change-on-gender-inequality-in-bangladesh/