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Climate change and gender is the interaction between the environmental phenomenon of climate change and the social category of gender. By altering the ecosystems of the planet, climate change and global warming directly impact the human race. These effects vary for different segments of the population, specifically for people of different genders.


Climate change is a lasting variation in the global climate in response to natural and/or human factors. [1] The causes and effects of climate change are directly impacting global ecosystems. [2] A two-degree rise in temperature threatens 25 percent of all plant and animal species on the planet with extinction. [2] These climatic changes have unequal effects on different populations based on their vulnerability. [3] The vulnerability of an individual or group is their ability to cope with and adapt to climate change and is directly linked to access to resources. [4] Marginalized groups, like women, children, the elderly, and the impoverished have less access to and control over resources and therefore are more negatively impacted by climate change. [4]

Impacts on gender[edit]

Gender is the collective social differences between males and females, as determined by culture [5] Gender is one of many components of vulnerability to climatic change. [6] Changes in the climate affect genders differently, magnifying existing gender inequality. [1] [4] Both women and men are affected by and vulnerable to climate change and global warming, but women often bear more of the burden. [7] A study by the London School of Economics found that, in natural disasters in 141 countries, gender differences in deaths correlated to women’s economic and social rights in those countries. [6] Due to their social standing, females in developing countries are not generally taught survival skills like swimming or climbing, meaning they are more likely to die in a natural disaster. [1] When women have fewer rights and less power in society, more of them die due to climate change, but when there are equal rights for all groups, death rates are more equally matched. [6]


The poor and impoverished are dependent on the environment and its natural resources for subsistence and income, and poverty research reveals that most of the poor are women because they have less social power [2]. Many women in developing countries are farmers, but women as a group have trouble obtaining education, income, land, livestock, and technology because of their status in society, meaning climate change may negatively impact female farmers more than male farmers by further limiting their resources. [8] Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of food in the developing world, yet they own ten percent of all agricultural land and approximately two percent of land rights [2].

Women are often in charge of obtaining water, firewood, and other resources for their families, but these resources are directly impacted by climate change, meaning women must travel further and work longer to access them during crisis. [2] [1] Climate change increases burdens placed on women by society and further limits their access to education and employment. [7]

Sexual abuse and disease transmission[edit]

Women and children in developed and developing countries are at higher risk of sexual abuse during and after natural disasters than before. [9] Condom use during disasters is also lower than at other times, because of decreased access to condoms. [9] Combined with the accelerated spread of diseases and infections in developing countries, global warming and climate change have led to higher rates of dengue fever, malaria, HIV, and STI transmission, especially for women. [9] [2] Elderly women are also particularly at risk during natural disasters and times of crisis because they are more susceptible to climatically-induced health risks like disease and because they are often isolated from social support to which men and some younger women have access. [2]

Case studies[edit]


Bangladesh is prone to flooding and waterlogging because of its location as a delta. [10] [11] [12] It is labeled a Least Developed Country by the UN, with high rates of poverty and weak government, making it especially vulnerable to natural disasters. [11] [12] It is densely populated and about 63 percent of its population works in the agriculture, forestry, or fishing sectors. [11]

Slightly less than half of Bangladesh’s population is women and 80 percent of women live in rural areas [12]. Bangladeshi women are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they have limited mobility and power in society. [5] Research shows that, after the cyclone and flooding of 1991, Bangladeshi women aged 20-44 had a much higher death rate than men of the same age: 71 per 1000, compared to 15 per 1000 for men. [12] Even if a cyclone warning is issued, many women die because they must wait at home for their relatives to return before they can seek shelter. [12]

As climate change progresses, access to and salinization of water sources is becoming a problem in Bangladesh. [12] When there is a lack of drinking water, women are responsible for procuring it regardless of the distance they must travel or the terrain they must cover. [12]

During natural disasters, male unemployment rises. [12] When males become unemployed, female responsibilities increase because they must secure and manage income and resources on top of feeding the family and caring for children and the elderly. [12] As the number of men at home without income or occupation rises, more women report mental and physical abuse by their male relatives. [12]

To cope with climatic change, women store matches, food for the family, fodder for the livestock, medicine, and fuel sources in safe places in case of disaster. [12] They also teach their children skills such as swimming to prepare them for crisis. [12] Climate-resilient jobs such as duck rearing can help increase Bangladeshi women’s resilience to climate change. [10]

Since the disasters of 1991, Bangladeshi women are more involved in disaster response decision-making, through local committees and community organizations established by the government and NGOs. [12], [5] After the 2005 Poverty Reduction Strategy paper was published, Bangladesh incorporated gender mainstreaming into its climate change adaptation plan, but those goals and policies have not been fully implemented. [12]

South Africa[edit]

South Africa is the region with the largest economy in Africa, yet more than half of the population lives in poverty and many are unemployed. [13] Those who are impoverished depend heavily on agriculture and natural resources to live. [13] Coal and metal ore mining were also significant contributing sectors of the economy, but are decreasing due to climate change and globalization. [13]

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that Africa will warm due to climate change 1.5 times more than the rest of the world and that South Africa, specifically, will be about 3 - 4°C warmer than it is now by 2100. [13] Water, agriculture, mining, and forestry would all be affected by these changes in temperature and weather. [13]

57% of South Africa's poor are at risk for negative climate change effects because they depend on rain-fed agriculture and climate change in Africa is expected to cause longer and more intense periods of drought over time. [13] Many of the rural poor in South Africa are women who have only limited access to property, income, credit, resources, and social power. [13]

In South Africa, men traditionally look after the livestock while women look over the garden, but due to extended periods of drought, many households lost their livestock. [13] In response to this loss and to increasing unemployment, men are turning to alcohol to deal with the psychological stress. [13] Some are also increasing their number of sexual partners, increasing their risk of contracting or spreading HIV. [13] In response to these changes, more women are entering the workforce, either formally or informally. Some are now working in traditionally male occupations like mining and construction. Others are making and selling goods locally. [13]

Social grants from the South African government allow women to continue to work in the changing climate. [13] These include pensions, disability payments, child support, and other grants. [13] In some cases, when men were responsible for the distribution of social grants in the household instead of women, they used the money for alcohol consumption. [13] Now women tend not to give grant money to men, which can cause domestic disputes within households. [13]

Understanding of climate change in these areas is based mainly on experience and local knowledge communicated orally. [13] Women hold more of this knowledge than men do because of their experience with farming and gardening. [13] In response to drought, some women have begun planting crops near wetlands or other water sources. [13] They are also beginning to preserve food for periods of drought or crop failure. [13]

Climate change policy documents about South Africa, like the South African Country Study on Climate Change Vulnerability & Adaptation Assessment, do not address gender. [13] While women in South Africa are represented in the government on a provincial level, there are not many women in government at a municipal level. [13]

Climate change policy[edit]

Some scholars believe that climate change policy that does not address gender is not effective in responding to climate change. [1] Much of the policy created before 2013 focused on economic rather than social effects of climatic change. [1] [4] Climate change research and policy has only very recently begun to look at gender. [1] CEDAW, the Millennium Development Goals, and the Beijing Platform for Action are all gender-aware initiatives that may affect climate change policy. [1] While women in rural areas depend on the environment heavily, they are not usually represented in climate change decision-making processes, whether those processes are adaptative or mitigative. [6]

Global responses to climate change[edit]

Some of the international responses to climate change that do not address gender or employ gender-sensitive approaches include Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development, the UN Climate Framework Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Action Plan, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). [1] [2] The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the only international climate change response to have incorporated gender dimensions. [2]

Mitigation efforts[edit]

Mitigative policy attempts to moderate the intensity of global warming’s effects through measures like reducing greenhouse gases and enhancing sinks. [14] According to research, men and women use their knowledge of their environments to mitigate disasters, transferring this knowledge through informal education. [9] Some of this knowledge includes food preservation processes, methods of construction, and understanding of natural resources in the area. [9]

Examples of mitigative efforts include carbon markets, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, the clean development mechanism. [1] All of these measures largely ignore gender. [1]

Adaptation efforts[edit]

Adaptive policy involves spontaneous or planned efforts to tolerate the negative effects of climate change and take advantage of the beneficial effects. [15] Local adaptive processes can decrease in effectiveness over time, especially due to the effects of climate change. [9] Globally, organizations focused on climate change invest more funding in mitigative efforts than in adaptive efforts. [2]

Women are important players in adaptive climate change policy because they have gendered local knowledge about things like managing water resources. [16] [6] CARE’s research shows that, when women are in control of the family income, it is more likely to be spent on human development. [10] Women are also generally more risk averse than men and make safer decisions. [10] Yet the EU Commission and Council on adaptation policy (2006–2008) and the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) do not address gender at all. [2] [1]

Policy recommendations[edit]

Some scholars recommend incorporating gender dimensions into research and using human-rights approaches like the Millennium Development Goals and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as frameworks for climate change responses. [1] [6]

Several organizations believe that linking mitigation and adaptation approaches, equally funding both types of efforts, and integrating gender into mitigative and adaptive policies will better address the consequences of climate change. [1] [6]

Women are essential components of a response to climate change. [4] But to fully address climate change, policy-makers must work with both women and men and take them into consideration at all levels. [10]

A forest-protection mechanism has come about called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). [2] Many development organizations praise the REDD mechanism, but others criticize its function as a market-based instrument and its impact on local communities. [2] They believe you should avoid market-based approaches when possible and ensure that any market-based instruments used benefit women and men equally. [1]

The UNDP mandates mainstreaming gender in all adaptation measures. [7] Yet some scholars believe imposing mainstreaming agendas on communities can make gender-sensitive policy less effective and may even be counter-productive. [9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Aboud, Georgina. "Gender and Climate Change." (2011).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Rodenberg, Birte. Climate Change Adaptation from a Gender Perspective: A Cross-cutting Analysis of Development-policy Instruments. German Development Institute, 2009.
  3. ^ United Nations Development Programme. "Fighting climate change: human solidarity in a divided world." Human Development Report 2007/2008. (accessed March 18, 2013).
  4. ^ a b c d e Dankelman, Irene. "Climate change is not gender-neutral: realities on the ground." Public Hearing on “Women and Climate Change”. (2011)
  5. ^ a b c CARE. "Adaptation, Gender, and Women's Empowerment." Care International Climate Change Brief. (2010). (accessed March 18, 2013).
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Adeniji, Grace. "Adapting to climate change in Africa." Jotoafrika. no. 6 (2011).
  7. ^ a b c United Nations Development Programme. "The Contribution of UNDP-GEF Adaptation Initiatives Towards MDG3." Millennium Development Goals and Climate Change Adaptation. (2010). (accessed March 18, 2013).
  8. ^ FAO. "Women in Agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development." The State of Food and Agriculture. (2011). (accessed March 18, 2013).
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Lane, Ruth, and Rebecca McNaught. "Building gendered approaches to adaptation in the Pacific." Gender & Development. 17. no. 1 (2009): 67 - 80.
  10. ^ a b c d e CARE. "Adaptation, Gender, and Women's Empowerment." Care International Climate Change Brief. (2010).
  11. ^ a b c Kartiki, Katha. "Climate change and migration: a case study from rural Bangladesh." Gender & Development. 19. no. 1 (2011): 23 - 38.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n WEDO. "Climate Change in Bangladesh." Gender, Climate Change and Human Security. (2008). (accessed March 18, 2013).
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Babugura, Agnes. "Gender and Climate Change: South Africa Case Study." Heinrich Böll Foundation. (2010). (accessed March 30, 2013).
  14. ^ Verbruggen, A. "Annex I: glossary." Climate Change (2007).
  15. ^ United Nations. "Glossary of climate change acronyms." United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2012). (accessed March 18, 2013).
  16. ^ Terry, Geraldine. Climate Change and Gender Justice. Oxfam GB, 2009.


Nussbaum, Martha C. 2011. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach.

External links[edit]

  • [1] Global Gender and Climate Alliance
  • [2] Millennium Development Goals
  • [3] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women