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Women Are Bearing The Brunt Of The Climate Crisis

When we think about the impending crisis of climate change, it may not exactly feel instinctual to view it as a feminist issue. However, climate researchers and women’s organisations are increasingly drawing attention to the effects of climate change using this lens and it’s important to recognise that women will be disproportionately affected by natural disasters and the destabilisation caused by a warming planet. While climate change will affect everyone, the most vulnerable and marginalised will experience the greatest impacts and, in many places around the world, this means that women will bear the brunt of the crisis

So, why are women more vulnerable to climate change? 

World health and human rights organisations have long acknowledged that climate change will not affect everybody equally. It’s clear that nations in the global south (the countries also the least responsible in terms of carbon emissions) will be the most threatened by a warming planet due to a more direct reliance on agriculture, forestry, and fishing. But this unequal distribution of the effects of climate change also extends to genders and researchers are increasingly calling for climate change to be viewed through a feminist lens. 
Women will be disproportionately affected by climate change compared to men for a whole range of reasons. For a start, women represent the majority of the world’s poor (in fact, around 70 per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women) and they are proportionally more dependent on threatened natural resources than men. In communities in the global south, women also often shoulder the burden of finding local natural resources for their livelihood and communities. 
Women hold more of the responsibility for activities like subsistence farming, horticulture, and raising livestock for home consumption – all of which will face mounting threats as the climate crisis escalates. Globally, women also have less access than men to the education, technology, and training that could help them to adapt to the climate crisis. It’s estimated that climate change has already pushed approximately 158 million women and girls into poverty, 16 million more than the total number of men and boys. 
The issues faced by women and girls also intensify markedly when natural disasters caused by climate change hit. When these disasters occur, as many as 80 per cent of the people displaced by them are women and girls and they are 14 times more likely to die in the aftermath of a disaster. UN Women states that natural disasters also increase women and girls’ vulnerability to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including human trafficking and child marriage. Natural disasters can also amplify sexual health and fertility risks when access to contraception is disrupted and vector-borne illnesses threaten the health of pregnant women and their foetuses. 

What are the solutions? 

While climate change presents huge challenges for women around the globe, human rights organisations also say that viewing climate change through a feminist lens presents a huge range of opportunities. Women are vastly underrepresented in decision-making roles and particularly when it comes to climate change – in fact, only 15 of the 133 world leaders that attended COP28 in 2023 were women. Increasingly, women are being called on to share their unique knowledge and experiences in order to address the climate crisis – particularly women from Indigenous, rural and young populations. Speaking to UNESCO, the former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, stated that while the increase in global climate-related disasters is disturbing, women’s leadership in the climate crisis “is the only way for us to save the planet before it’s too late.” 
Climate action on the scale needed to avert the impending climate crises will require action from the entirety of the human population and leaving women and girls out of these conversations on a global scale only acts to weaken this movement. The UN argues that by empowering women to participate, the world will be provided with better climate solutions, as well as greater resilience against climate threats within communities. While there are countless women and women-led organisations at the forefront of climate action globally, adopting a feminist lens for climate change can forefront the issues that women face as well as empowering more to become involved and rise to leadership positions. 

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