Facts & Figures on Gender & Climate Change

Impacts of climate change are expected to exacerbate poverty and inequalities. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), social impacts will vary, depending on factors like age, socio-economic class, occupation and gender. The world’s poorest inhabitants will be worst affected. For example, the loss of life is expected to be 500 times greater in Africa than in developed countries, even though the carbon footprint of the poorest billion people is approximately three percent of the world's total [1].

Agriculture & Food Insecurity

  • Women, primarily on small farms, provide up to 80 percent of agricultural labour and produce 45 to 90 percent of domestically consumed food, depending on the region [1].
  • Erratic rainfall and unseasonal temperatures already challenge some farmers, especially small land-holders who have less capacity to adapt. In Africa, the proportion of women affected by climate-related crop changes could range from 73 percent in the Congo to 48 percent in Burkina Faso [2].
  • For women growers, this insecurity is compounded by a comparative lack of assets and arable land, and in some cases lack of the right to own the very land they till. Worldwide, women own less than two percent of all property. In many countries, less than 10 percent of women hold title to their land [1], which limits their access to resources and credit during crises.
  • Efforts for reform fall short. An analysis of credit schemes for small-scale farmers in five African countries found that women received less than 10 percent of the credit awarded to men smallholders [3].
  • Deforestation compounds these conditions, because many rural women depend on non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for income, traditional medicinal use, nutritional supplements in times of food shortages and as a seed bank for plant varieties needed to source alternative crops under changing growing conditions. Thus, loss of biodiversity challenges the nutrition, health, and livelihoods of women and their communities [4].

Heavier Household Burdens

  • Currently, it is estimated that 1.2 billion people lack access to safe water. Only 58 percent of sub-Saharan Africans live within 30 minutes walking-distance of safe water and only 16 percent have a household connection [5].
  • Gathering and transporting water typically falls on women and children in developing countries — a task that can take many hours each day in drought prone areas. In Africa, a half hour is spent on average to collect water — including walking to the source, sometimes waiting to gather water, and return [6].
  • Collecting water is expected to become increasingly burdensome with global warming. More regions will experience water shortages as rainfall becomes erratic, glaciers melt and seas rise. People living within 60 miles of a shoreline — a full third of the world’s population — will be hit especially hard, as they are most susceptible to increased salinity of coastal potable water sources [7].
  • As it takes more time to gather water and fuel, the available time for education or other economic and political activities decreases. Already, the majority of children worldwide who do not attend school are girls [8].
  • Travelling longer distances to collect water and fuel can also place women and girls at risk of violence. This risk is exacerbated in or near conflict zones, which have the added impact of often degrading local natural resources. In West and South Darfur, 82 percent of almost 500 women treated for rape were attacked while undertaking daily activities, such as gathering water, firewood or thatch [9].
  • Shortages of firewood or other bio-fuels due to floods or drought — expected to increase with higher temperatures — add to women’s workload where they are responsible for its collection. Currently, 2.4 billion people rely on biomass for cooking and heating, negatively impacting health and simultaneously exacerbating global warming [1].
  • In developing countries and emerging markets, policies and programmes that enhance women’s access to technology for renewable energy have proven to decrease deforestation as fuel demands shift away from biomass, and create co-benefits of increased living standards, improved indoor air quality and improved health of entire families [10].
  • Women often play a central role in determining the neutrality of their household’s contribution to climate change and can lead the way in low-emission living. In developed countries, women typically eat a lower green-house gas diet (less meat) than men and more often choose public transportation and "green" products when provided the option [11].

Increased Risk to Health & Lives

  • Between 2004 and 2006, 70 percent of natural disasters occurred where the majority of the world’s most vulnerable populations reside — Asia, the Pacific region, Africa and the Middle East [12].
  • During times of shortages and higher food prices — circumstances expected to aggravate with climate change — the health of women and girls is shown to diminish before that of males, due to various social constraints and inequities. In India, for example, reduced rainfall is more strongly associated with deaths among girls than boys [13].
  • Some diseases that women and children are especially vulnerable to, such as malaria and diarrhoea, are also expected to increase in prevalence as temperatures rise. In some regions, the estimated risk of diarrhoea will be up to 10 percent higher by 2030, and temperature increases of two to three degrees Celsius may increase the risk of malaria by three to five percent [14].
  • Water shortages are also linked to increases in diseases, especially among children and the elderly, since hygienic practices are commonly sacrificed to more pressing needs for water, such as drinking and cooking. This includes an increase in diarrhoeal disease — a leading cause of death among children in developing states [15]. Almost half of all urban residents in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are already victims of diseases associated with poor water and sanitation facilities [6].
  • Additionally, there is a strong correlation between gender equality in women’s everyday lives and their survival rate in disasters. Women are up to 14 times more likely than men to die from natural disasters [16]. Poverty and poor access to health care exacerbate these risks.
  • Case studies suggest that public shame, social and clothing inhibitions, and lack of survival skills (swimming, climbing trees etc.) contribute to a greater death rate of women compared with men in hurricanes and floods. Moreover, women often care for children, the sick and elderly, and may place themselves at higher risk to do so [17].
  • Women are more often found in structurally weak buildings at higher risk of collapse due to mud slides and other climate-related hazards, since they are prone to congregate compared with men in places of lower social value — such as in market stalls, schools and shanties [17].

References

  1. The Lancet and University College of London Institute for Global Health Commission, Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change (2009).
  2. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gender and Climate Change Manual (2009).
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rural Women and Food Security: Current Situation and Perspectives (1998).
  4. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rural Women and Food Security: Current Situation and Perspectives (1998); R. Dellink and A. Ruijs (editors), Economics of Poverty, Environment and Natural-Resource Use (2008); and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gender and Non-Timber Forest Products: Promoting Food Security and Economic Empowerment (2008).
  5. WHO and UNICEF, Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: A Midterm Assessment of Progress (2004).
  6. WHO and UNICEF, Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: The Urban and Rural Challenge of the Decade (2006).
  7. The Lancet and University College of London Institute for Global Health Commission, Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change (2009); International Institute for Environment and Development, Climate Change: Study Maps Those at Greatest Risk From Cyclones and Rising Seas (2007); and IPCC, Climate Change and Water: IPCC Technical Paper VI (2008).
  8. UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children (2007).
  9. Médecins sans Frontières, The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur ( 2005); Human Rights Watch, Sexual Violence and its Consequences among Displaced Persons in Darfur and Chad (2005).
  10. Energia – International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy, Where Energy is Women’s Business: National and Regional Reports from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific (2007); and Albert C. Achudume, Environment, Development and Sustainability, Volume 11, Number 2 (2009).
  11. S. Hansson, Swedish Defence Research Agency, Gender Issues in Climate Adaptation (2007); R. A. Carlsson-Kanyama, Energy Consumption by Gender in some European Countries (2009).
  12. International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), World Disasters Report (2008).
  13. UNDP, Human Development Report (2007).
  14. WHO, Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses (2003).
  15. WHO and UNICEF, Water for Life: Making it Happen 2005-2015 (2005).
  16. London School of Economics and Political Science with University of Essex and Max-Planck Institute of Economics, E. Neumayer and T. Plumper (authors), The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981-2002 (2007); and Peterson K., Reaching out to Women when Disaster Strikes: Soroptimist White Paper (2007). The LSE study shows that from 1995 to 2004 around 2,500 million people were affected by disasters, most of which (75 percent) were related to weather extremes, with losses of 890,000 dead and US$570 billion costs.
  17. London School of Economics and Political Science with University of Essex and Max-Planck Institute of Economics, E. Neumayer and T. Plumper (authors), The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981-2002 (2007).