Climate change is inevitable to everyone regardless of ethnicity, race, and gender. There is a reason why the IPCC declares the climate crisis as a current challenge that humans are facing where the impacts and implications may appear to be equal.
As climate change becomes a universal challenge, humans also become vulnerable and prone to the impacts. The question will be, are we all equal when it comes to climate change impacts? Are people, everywhere, all at once prone to the risks? Studies beg to differ as various conditions diversify the impact of climate change.
Hence, the answer is no. For example, geographical conditions, and preparedness to face climate change, starting with the economic condition within the capacity aspect, have an impact on how a nation builds its resiliency against the ‘universal challenge.’ In summary, climate change is happening and everyone is prone to the consequences, however, the risk is biased toward the weaker party in the chain. In fact, the more vulnerable a community is, the greater the impact of climate change (Osman-Elasha, n.d.).
As concepts of sustainability and equality are included into the sustainable development goals, both aspects play crucial roles in ensuring the well-being of the people and the planet. This is when the study of gender and climate become relevant to be looked at. Will the study achieve the best of both worlds or only become a general study without any directions?
If climate change’s risks varied between LEDCs and MEDCs, the same could occur between men and women. The gap of capability in facing climate change has been raised, particularly with least developed countries. Because of their greater population density, lack of funding, and lower preparedness, they are much more vulnerable. Women, in this case, may experience a greater impact of inequality or be more at risk from the effects of climate change, adding more challenges to the existing gap.
According to UN WOMEN, climate change is not gender neutral as it amplifies the impact of the existing status quo of gender inequality and conflict, weighing more pressure on women in facing the multidimensional challenges (UN Women, 2022). This should not be overlooked, with women representing the majority of 70% poverty of the global population and they also dominate 50-80% world’s food production and yet women own less than 10% of the land, making them dependent on natural resources to fulfill their livelihood. Poor living conditions also hinder women to empower themselves in building their capability to face climate change, such as high rates of illiteracy, limitations in their ability to make decisions, and limited access to climate change adaptation.
Furthermore, women experience a double burden during periods of extreme weather, such as drought and flooding, since women work harder and longer hours to fulfill household demands, which may include subsistence farming, collecting wood, cooking, and childcare. The burden also hinders women from seeking refuge when a disaster hits due to the responsibility of taking care of their families. Climate change also brings health risks where the increasing 1 degree Celsius during prenatal increases 6% the risk of stillbirth and the extreme heat brings negative maternal outcomes (UNFPA, 2021). Additionally, rising temperatures could increase the spread of zika virus, which has been linked to irregular brain development in babies, and birth defects, such as microcephaly that result in intellectual disability in children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022).
UNFCCC reported that climate-induced disaster increases the risk of gender-based violence, where child marriage in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Kenya become a method to make up for economic losses from floods and droughts by sacrificing the children to become brides, turning their dream into short-term funding mechanism. This snowball effect shows how young women are sacrificed due to the impact of climate change as they have to leave education due to adapt to the current circumstances.
Those aforementioned statements demonstrate the crucial connection between gender and climate. The global population, however, seems to have to forget those interlinking relations as the global population highlights the impact rather than the vulnerability of certain communities. Time to open our eyes to gender and climate study, finding equal solutions to mitigate climate change’s risk and closing the gap of inequality.
The solutions that could be done are through capacity building in closing the inequality, the effort shall be done through training, financial incentives, and opening channel for economic opportunities for women in less developed countries. Another method could involve increasing women's participation in decision-making by providing a safe and inclusive space for women to voice their concern and ideas, therefore the policy related to climate change adaptation shall be empowering where women could adapt without sacrificing anything in order to cope with climate change impacts. Hence, this is very crucial to expanding the gender and climate study, where those interlinking branches could bring inclusive solutions for vulnerable communities to build resiliency against the universal challenge.
Contributor: Nicole Ang