How climate change impacts men and women differently

Env Climate Change Slide5

Climate change not only impacts agriculture through weather events such as drought – it also is expected to exacerbate current gender inequalities.

Women are on the frontlines, which is why the impacts of climate change – weather events like floods, droughts, storms etc. – further burden them disproportionately in terms of:

  • Agricultural productivity – Women may produce less since climate change makes it harder to perform these tasks.
  • Disasters are more likely to kill women – They are often the last ones to leave due to responsibility of care for children and the elderly.
  • Time – Droughts and lack of access to water means women and girls spend more time collecting water and travelling further and further to do so. Water collection usually falls to women and girls.

The agricultural sector is often the biggest contributor to a developing country’s GDP. It is often the sector most of the population relies upon for their livelihood in these countries. Women make critical contributions to agriculture in developing countries: On average, women comprise 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries (20% in Latin America to 50% in Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa).

One thing women have in common across regions is that they have less access than men to productive resources and opportunities – land, education, finance, labor and decision making/leadership roles.

The depletion of natural resources and decreasing agricultural productivity caused by climate change place additional burdens on women and reduce their time to participate in decision-making processes and income-generating activities.

Climate-related disasters have been found to impact female-headed households more severely, too, particularly where they have fewer assets to start with. If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields, ultimately raising total agricultural output in developing countries, which could in turn also strengthen food security.

How climate shocks and stresses further burden already struggling populations

Climate-related shocks can include:

  • Natural disasters that destroy assets and livelihoods;
  • Waterborne diseases and pests that become more prevalent during heat waves, floods, or droughts;
  • Crop failure from reduced rainfall; and,
  • Spikes in food prices that follow extreme weather events further burden those already vulnerable.

Such shocks also can impact those who are not poor and drag them into poverty – for example, a flood destroying a microenterprise, a drought eliminating a herd, or contaminated water making a child sick. Over 96% of disaster-related deaths in recent years have taken place in developing countries. Often, climate shocks can set back the development process for decades.



How climate change impacts various issues and sectors

Env Climate Change Slide3

Climate change impacts various issues and sectors:

  • Health – Negatively affects the health of poor people, increases the prevalence of vector-borne diseases (for example malaria), and with increased severe weather events, vulnerability to water borne diseases.
  • Economic growth – Climate change is expected to alter the path and impede economic growth due to changes in natural systems and resources, infrastructure, and labor productivity.
  • Food security – Climate change poses a threat to food security by reducing natural resource productivity and by exacerbating malnutrition.
  • Water and Women – Climate change further reduces access to drinking water, and as a result, prevents women’s empowerment since women and girls will have to spend more time and energy obtaining water, for example in times of drought. This is time that could be used for educational or income-generating activities.



A climate sensitive approach to economic growth

Env Climate Change Slide2

We need to re-frame development by recognizing the links between climate action and poverty.

Those who are most vulnerable are often most severely impacted by the negative impacts of climate change. That vulnerability may be:

  • Geographic – SIDS (small island developing states), coastal areas, developing countries
  • Financial – those living in poverty, or
  • Gender – men and women are impacted differently

A climate sensitive development approach requires the understanding that these vulnerabilities, especially those that come with climate change, may impact different populations differently.
Climate change threatens the developing world in new ways, and it would be counter-productive to our goal to ignore this reality.