Why Is The Climate Crisis Disproportionately Affecting Women?

March 16, 2022

The omnipresent issue of climate change undoubtedly weighs in on most people on a daily basis. The effects are not only known and understood but now they are truly being seen in nature as well. But, is it true that like seemingly everything else in this world, the climate crisis is impacting women to a higher degree? And because the answer to this question is ostensibly true what can we as a society do to lessen these impacts for women? The first step is to educate ourselves on the harsh truths of women and their relationship to our planet and its subsequent complications. This International Women’s month, let’s determine what we can really do for women.

The fact that women are disproportionately impacted by climate change seems like an unusual phenomenon at first glance. But, the fact that women are disproportionately affected by most problems in the world make it less surprising. What is really comes down to is the mere actuality that women have less access to basic human rights. In fact, 90% of countries have at least one legal difference between men and women that limit a woman’s opportunity. Specifically, these include but are not limited to: restrictions on young girls attending school, forced child marriages, or even the inability to open accounts or make major life choices without permission from their husband or father. Laws and policies such as these ensure second-class treatment of women globally; an extreme issue on its own and the reason for deepening gender inequalities by climate change. Without the privilege of free choice, women are therefore affected by impacts of climate change like heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, as well as extreme storms. Women are more likely to face poverty and face systematic violence during unstable periods, such as an ever-changing climate, so much so that the 2015 Paris Agreement outlines specific provisions in order for women to have the utmost support to cope with these hazards. As climate change intensifies, which science predicts it will, women will struggle the most and have a smaller chance to take action for themselves or their communities. In rural communities in which women are the main home-makers who put forth more effort to acquire food and other household resources, they will only be faced with more obstacles as climate change charges on. Data has even shown that poor conditions caused by a changing climate directly affect women’s ability to obtain jobs. A study done by Stephanie Buechler of the University of Arizona concluded that decreased water availability reduced women’s ability to invest in their careers. Environmental struggles have also lead organizations who engage in human trafficking and extreme labor exploitation to more power; groups that women are the most vulnerable towards. Specifically, women who have less access to fish that they depend on for food, are forced to secure it by other means, often selling sex. Cate Owen, Senior Gender Program Manager at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) explains that, “It is that negotiation of power, and negotiation of access to natural resources in unequal structures, that makes gender-based violence a tool”. Luckily, women are resilient and still do amazing work by leading climate action movements, and working on building alternatives that focus on sustainability, conservation, and clean energy. Women remain powerful, strong, and ambitious despite society’s constant attempts to dehumanize and scapegoat them.

Ironically, as women are disproportionately facing the impacts of climate change, it is widely believed that men are actually the gender which emits more carbon. This is a blanket statement, as not all men are spending money on greenhouse-gas emitting goods and services, but studies show it is fair to assume men as a whole are more to blame for climate change than women. A Swedish study conducted in 2021, aimed to learn about personal emissions hoping to discover if households could reduce their emissions by altering the goods and services that they purchase. While the analysis found men and women are typically spending approximately the same amounts of money, the money that men were spending had a bigger impact on our planet. Specifically, men spent 70% more money towards “greenhouse gas intensive items” (such as fuel and meat) which emit 16% more greenhouse gases than what women bought.

Although men are not completely to blame for climate change entirely, one can argue how interesting it is that men emit more carbon, yet women face more of the consequences.

So, now what? How do we really fix this colossal and impossible issue? Well, there are always ways in which everyday people can help combat climate change such as eating a more plant-based diet, more sustainable travel by using trains instead of planes, smarter consumer choices such as purchasing less single-use plastic items and more slow-fashion pieces or even buying local more often. If these issues were impacting men in the same way I am sure we would be further along in fixing them, but women issues are usually put on the back burner, especially when it comes to women of color. So, since this issue is directly affecting women in such harsh circumstances, I believe the best way to help is to not only learn more, but also donate to causes that work to supply aid to women around the world to be able to attend school, work, and be less vulnerable to dangerous situations caused by environmental stressors. Re-learning the way women are treated and disproportionately affected by our world’s problems is an excellent first step. I have also included a few links below which are excellent resources to donate to if you feel so compelled. Together, we can keep work to keep our climate stable to ensure all people are safe.

Women’s Rights Charities to donate to:

Malala Fund: Providing Girls Access to Quality Education

Women For Women International: Supplying Tools of Empowerment to Women Survivors of War

Global Fund for Women: Funding Gender Justice Movements to Empower Women Worldwide

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Photo: Joel Muniz via Unsplash

Abbey Serio
Abbey is a recent college graduate based in Southern California who is extremely passionate about sustainability and zero waste. She has been vegan for over 4 years and loves animals. In her free time Abbey can be found hiking, reading, listening to music, experimenting with new vegan recipes, gardening, and spending time with friends and family. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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