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How Climate Change Specifically Harms Women

May 31, 2017

As President Trump weighs the Paris climate deal

Following reports that President Donald Trump may be ready to pull out of the Paris climate deal, policy experts, business leaders and environmental organizations are lamenting that the move will be detrimental to the environment, the United States’ investment in alternative energy sources and our relationship with European allies.

But others pointed to a gendered implication: how the move could disproportionately affect women in poor countries across the globe.

The Paris deal was signed by nearly 200 countries in 2015 as a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Obama administration also pledged $3 billion to help poorer nations address the effects of climate change. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said it’s important that the U.S. remains involved in the Paris agreement because the effects of climate change have been linked to environmental and national security risks. Others argue that the U.S. pulling out of the deal could mean that countries like India, Indonesia and the Philippines may be less likely to work on lowering their emissions.

The UN has long argued in the past that the effects of climate change aren’t gender neutral. (A representative for UN Women did not immediately respond to Motto’s request for comment.) In 2008, the Commission on the Status of Women identified climate change as an emerging issue and highlighted its gender-specific impacts — particularly for women in developing countries. In 2009, the United Nations Popular Fund outlined those impacts in its “State of the World Population” report:

“Women—particularly those in poor countries—will be affected differently than men. They are among the most vulnerable to climate change, partly because in many countries they make up the larger share of the agricultural work force and partly because they tend to have access to fewer income-earning opportunities. Women manage households and care for family members, which often limits their mobility and increases their vulnerability to sudden weather-related natural disasters. Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes. Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. This cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality undermines the social capital needed to deal effectively with climate change.”

“A few years ago, climate change was considered gender-neutral,” Naoko Ishii, the CEO and chairperson for the Global Environment Facility, a nonprofit focused on the environment, told the New York Times in April. “But when we did a gender analysis, gender neutral actually meant gender-ignorant.”