Women will feel effects of climate change more than men
Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30
A new obstacle has emerged in the battle for female equality - in the form of climate change. Global warming will inflict far more suffering on women than men, because they are more vulnerable to the floods, droughts and diseases that are expected to increase as the climate changes, leading academics have warned.
Climate change's 'gender discrimination' will be far more pronounced in those swathes of the poorer, developing world where sexual inequality is typically much greater and where the effects of global warming will be more extreme.
Women in poorer countries tend to be more vulnerable because, when disaster strikes, sexist social structures mean they are far more likely to be in the home cooking, cleaning or looking after others, putting them at greater risk from collapsing buildings.
But that is just one of many reasons why women tend to suffer disproportionately in natural disasters in the developing world. The research suggests women could be considered more vulnerable in severe storms because they are less likely to have been taught to swim in poorer countries, as well as being more unlikely to own a mobile phone.
In the most extreme cases women may be unable to leave the house without a male companion or their movement can even be hampered by long clothing, experts said.
"Climate change makes all of the very big and complex problems that exist in the world today a whole lot worse," said Professor Hilary Bambrick, of Western Sydney University, who points out that 90pc of the 150,000 people killed in the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone were women.
"If political leaders around the world are serious about gender equality, they must also get serious about climate change," she added.
Not only do women suffer more than men in the kind of climate-related disasters likely to result from global warming - they are also far more vulnerable to the day-to-day impact of rising temperatures.
They are more exposed to the mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya, which they come into contact with through the duties of water collection and food harvesting that typically fall to women.
Women are also more likely to go without food in the event of shortages because of drought, while water scarcity means they sometimes have to travel huge distances to collect water.
The disparity between men and women will be much lower in wealthy countries with relatively stronger gender equality.
Nearly 3,000 women across the world are calling on political leaders to put women's vulnerability to global warming at the centre of their action to tackle climate change - ahead of a key UN summit in Paris in December, which aims to reach an agreement on how best to tackle global warming.