Climate Change

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic

Warmer winters, more extreme weather events, and disproportionate warming at high elevations are all part of a growing trend toward significant change in climate affecting all major ecosystems globally [1-3]. The profound impacts of climate change on populations are immense and growing, they include: food insecurity, malnutrition, water stress, disease and illness, climate refugees, and extreme weather patterns [1-11]. It is widely believed that for the sake of future generations and the health of our ecosystems, it is necessary to promote climate change adaptation (response to the effects) and mitigation (reduce climate changes) with a special consideration for the interplay of sex, gender and diversity [3-7].
Sex Issues
Air quality and persistent organic pollutants have been a growing concern with climate change and their weighty effects on health globally. As an example, prolonged allergy seasons have been noted, affecting men and women, yet a recent study found that men were more affected by allergens than women[11, 12]. Even slight variations in temperature can provoke an infectious disease outbreak, such as has been seen in malaria or lyme disease [10]. At different ages, males and females show different reactions to pathogens in incidence, severity and mortality [13, 14]. Pregnancy, in utero development, and breastfeeding are potential periods of vulnerability for both mother and infant [13, 14].
Gender Issues
Around the world, women bare an inequitable burden of the effects of climate change. Where there is and will be increasing malnutrition and waterborne disease, women are the first to take up family and care responsibilities, abandoning their studies and source of income [4, 7]. Where they already receive lower wages than men, women also tend to do an unfair share of unpaid responsibilities (e.g. childcare, eldercare, domestic work), leaving them with fewer assets and lower income to cover the increasing monetary and health costs of climate change (e.g. health care costs, rising food prices) [4-7, 14]. Internationally, women are predominantly responsible for gathering water and growing crops to sustain their families, sometimes sacrificing meals for themselves [5-7]. When water becomes scarce and women are forced to seek water from poorer water quality sources, these may be contaminated (e.g., sewage effluents, agricultural effluents), they must place their health and the health of their families at risk [7, 15, 16]. As weather conditions cause water stress and droughts or floods, women will likely take up the role of traveling further distances for water, putting themselves at risk and abandoning studies and employment [7]. 

Geographically, it is said that women living in the global South and in rural and remote areas globally will be the most at a disadvantage to the effects of climate change [5, 6, 17]. It is also well known in disaster and gender research that women and girls are one of the top 10 most vulnerable populations in emergencies and disasters [7, 18]. Socialized physical skills, such as swimming, leave women unprepared for large scale disasters when protocols are not gender-sensitive [7]. Conflicts over land and resources may have men abandoning their families, leaving woman-headed households, who continue, in many parts of the world, to have fewer property rights, leaving their positions in the community vulnerable and the need to seek climate refuge likely [7]. Simply, the injustices and inequities disproportionately experienced by women of today will only intensify as environmental conditions degrade. 

The current government responses to climate change have been downstream solutions to increase security and improve technology (known as ecological modernization), yet they have systematically excluded women from the discussion even though most graduates from environmental studies are women [4-6, 19]. Despite this, the majority of women are interested in taking upstream action on climate change (mitigation), have relevant adaptive contributions to make and are key community and network stakeholders [5-7, 19, 20]. As a response to the growing media attention to climate change, women have internalized the need to reduce emissions, targeted by “green consumer” campaigns; they are forced to pick up the slack, providing green options for themselves and their families if and when they can [4-6].  Interestingly, studies of the ecological footprint of men and women show that women in traditional gender roles make less of an ecological footprint even though men’s lifestyles give them more flexibility to make the necessary changes [6].
Women who live in areas that are particularly vulnerable to global warming – for example in coastal and rural areas of the world -  are being and will continue to be the most negatively affected by climate change [21].  When women in these areas are additionally poor and disempowered, the impact increases.  Those who subsist on the arctic diet are at increasing risk for a growing number of contaminants related to climate change found in traditional foods, which involves careful tactics to balance the need for nutritious food versus the contaminants found in that food [22]. Women in the global South face a double burden, while they were once used to progress colonial agendas, now their debt is traded for their natural resource currency [6]. Government solutions have externalized the environmental costs of their industries, trading Carbon emissions like stocks on a stock market, disproportionately deferring the costs to marginalized communities [5, 6]. Around the world, indigenous and small, impoverished populations have been forced to leave their land to create conservation zones or because of significant contamination from industrial dumping [6].
As one of history’s most complex ecological and scientific issues, climate change discussions are heavily coloured by ideological debate. Furthermore, gender is completely neglected in policy and research, despite the significance of gender in the experienced impacts of climate change [4]. 

Much of the focus of what little policy and research does exist in relation to gender is often oppressive to women in the areas considered most at risk. Many of the current initiatives place impetus on individual actions (especially areas of responsibility for mostly women), while industrial action on climate change would yield more important results, and thus, a shift in mentality is needed to pressure industries into doing their part. Researchers in this area note a scarcity in research and policy specific to sex and gender, particularly related to infectious disease, urban contexts, management of environmental migration, violent conflict, hazard management strategies, water quality, land and property rights, unions, and secure work contracts [7, 13].
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