Why women are affected more adversely by climate change than men

In high-income western societies like Europe and the United States, the impacts of climate change will be more or less the same for men and women. But in poorer continents like Africa and parts of Asia, the impacts of a changing climate will be much more severely felt by women, who account for 70% of the global poor.

In countries such as Kenya and India, the day to day responsibility of keeping a family home running often falls to women, who are relied up for water collection, food production, procuring sources of fuel, cleaning and laundry etc. A heating climate increases the likelihood of extreme weather event such as droughts and floods which can cause crop failures and water stress, pushing families into crisis.

In correlation with their role as the primary carer of a family, it is most likely to be a woman who is expected to lead the clean-up following a climate induced extreme weather event.  A 2017 Oxfam report into the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico recorded how it was woman who were the ones to be found collecting water, washing floors, and drying soaking clothing.

“During extreme events such as drought, floods and other climate-related disasters, women face additional risks, due in large part to gender inequities that result in women bearing the disproportional brunt of disaster impacts”.

How climate change increases the risk of conflict and the dangers this presents to women

An increase in the numbers of droughts and floods around the world brings a heightened likelihood of conflict between nations competing for scarce resources. Whilst this results in difficulty and suffering for everyone in a society, it can bring particular hardships for women.

In many regions and cultures, women are not permitted to evacuate  their  homes  without  consent  from their husbands or elder men in their families or communities.

Living in an area of conflict may cause families to become fractured and displaced, which interrupts educational and economic opportunities and presents a greater exposure to violence, forced labour or people trafficking.

The gender-based societal inequalities which already exist are exacerbated during times of conflict and crisis, which may regrettably become more common as global temperatures continue to rise and more and more communities are displaced.

Conflicts cause displacement and the break-up of the family unit which can leave women exposed to exploitation from forced labour or human traffickers. Photo by Ahmed Akacha from Pexels

Celebrating female environmental pioneers this International Womens' Day

The world over, women are at the forefront of community movements which are delivering new ways of thinking and new economic models to promote a more equitable and sustainable future.

Covering a multitude of sectors, female driven innovations and expertise are transforming lives, improving well-being, and increasing resilience to climate breakdown.

Tuesday 8th March is International Women’s Day 2022, a perfect opportunity to celebrate some of the amazing and influential women who are at the vanguard of climate action. 

It could be argued that the modern environmental movement began with a call to arms from the American writer Rachel Carson, who in her 1962 book Silent Spring, brought concerns about the use of pesticides and environmental protection to a mainstream audience for the first time. 

Women have always provided a strong voice championing environmental causes and continue to do so today. Indeed, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who sparked a global wave of protest with her ‘school strike for climate” initiative, is widely considered to be the face of the modern climate protest movement.

Over in America, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the leading champion calling for a Green New Deal to develop a nationwide infrastructure programme of renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades.

Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein is one of the world’s top influential thinkers on the climate crisis. Her global bestseller This Changes Everything; Capitalism Vs The Climate has been lauded as the defining book on the subject, and was described by The Times as “the first truly honest book ever written about climate change”.

And aside these giants of climate leadership are many other less famous women who are fighting daily for a better deal for people and planet. 

Here are just a few that we wanted to give some love to:

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is an an environmental activist specialised in the adaptation of indigenous peoples to climate change.

She advocates for the greater inclusion of indigenous people and their knowledge and traditions in the global movement to fight the effects of climate change. Her focus on environmental advocacy stemmed from first-hand experience of the effects of global climate change in her community in Chad.

She is a member of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee and served as co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change during the historic UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

In 2017, she was also featured as part of the BBC’s 100 Women project, recognising 100 influential and inspiring women every year. In 2019 she was listed by Time Magazine as one of 15 leading women championing action on climate change.

Tessa Khan

Tessa Khan is a climate change lawyer, co-director of the Climate Litigation Network and a member of Urgenda’s legal team, who use the law as a tool to dramatically increase national climate mitigation ambition.

Ms Khan has provided high-level advice to national governments and institutions on their human rights obligations, including being commissioned to write expert papers on the obligations of governments in the context of climate change and sustainable development.

She is also the founder and director of Uplift, a new organisation with a mission to support and energise the movement for a fossil fuel-free UK, and she is on the steering committee of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty group.

Sunita Narain

Sunita Narain is an environmentalist in India, and a writer, political activist and editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth.

She has received the World Water Prize for work on rainwater harvesting. She was a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Council for Climate Change as well as the National Ganga River Basin Authority.

Narain teaches that environment stability and econimic development are inseperable and that for the millions of poor, who live on the margins of subsistence, it is a matter of life and death. In 1989, she wrote Towards Green Villages advocating local participatory democracy as the key to sustainable development.

She has also linked issues of local democracy with global democracy, arguing that every human being has an entitlement to the global atmospheric commons. In 2016 she was named to Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People.

Christiana Figueres

Christiana Figueres was born in 1956 in Costa Rica. She is a diplomat who has worked tirelessly towards the succeeding of the recent global climate change international negotiations.

Ms. Figueres has been involved in climate change negotiations since 1995, when she founded the Centre for Sustainable Development of the Americas (CSDA), a non-profit research hub for climate change policy and capacity-building. She was the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for two terms from 2010 to 2016, and was influential to the achievement of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

She is a widely published author on the design of climate solutions, has been a frequent adviser to the private sector, and lectures at many universities and colleges.

She is a founder of the Global Optimism group and recently co-published the book The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis . Ms. Figueres was given the ‘Hero for the Planet Award’ by the National Geographic Magazine for her international leadership in sustainable energy.

Hilda Heine

Hilda Heine was born in 1951 in the Marshall Islands, where she worked from 1975 to 1982 as a high-school teacher and counsellor after having earned an educational doctorate in the United States.

In 2000 Heine founded Women United Together Marshall Islands (WUTMI), a women’s rights group. In 2016 she was elected as the eighth President of the Republic of Marshall Islands. She was the first woman to hold this position. She lost an election in January 2020, but she continues to campaign for climate change as a senator of the Republic, exposing the incredible dangers for island countries such as the Marshall Islands.

She is committed to raising awareness and requesting more resources to tackle the climate emergency in the Pacific region while involving and empowering women in the process.

Women are leading the environmental cause in Brighton and Hove

For International Women’s Day 2021 we wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of the women who are local to Brighton and Hove who are trailblazing a better way to live our lives within healthy environmental boundaries.

Brighton is of course, the only part of the UK to have a Green Member of Parliament. Since 2010 Caroline Lucas has consistently fought on behalf of the environment and international women’s rights, and continues to hold the Government to account on its climate policy.

And lets not forget that BHESCo itself was founded by Kayla Ente MBEwho established the co-operative to challenge the patriarchal make-up of the UK energy industry and who is committed to fighting for equal gender representation at the highest levels of business leadership.

Women & Climate Emergency - International Womens Day
Kayla Ente, CEO & founder of BHESCo, presenting at the Game Changers Women's Leadership Summit at the Houses of Parliament.

We have listed below just a few of the pioneering women who are shaking up the business world in Brighton & Hove. We know that this shortlist offers only a limited selection of the hundreds of inspiring women who are making significant contributions to the well being of our local environment.

If there is anyone who you would like to see celebrated then please feel free to give details in the comments section below.

Cat Fletcher, Freegle UK

Cat is probably best known as one of the founders of Freegle UK, a website that enables people to donate unwanted items to someone who can reuse them. However, this is just one of her many achievements. Cat was a key driver behind the Brighton Waste House and is currently employed by Brighton and Hove Council as the first Re-use Manager in the country.

You can see Cat in action in this TEDx talk.

Jo-Anne Godden, Ruby Moon Activewear

After 25 years working in the unsustainable Fashion Industry, Jo decided to be part of the solution and founded RubyMoon sustainable activewear, which creates swim and gym clothing made from ocean plastic waste.

In her own words “RubyMoon combines the fashion industry’s substantial potential to positively impact the social and environmental state of our planet, with the knowledge that women and innovation are key to a better future”.

Jo is committed to activating women’s potential and elevating their status in communities where they often don’t have a voice. 

Ruth and Amy Anslow, HISBE

Sisters Ruth and Amy are shaking up the food retail sector with HISBE a new type of supermarket they founded to challenge the way that big supermarkets do business. HISBE stands for ‘How It Should Be’ and stocks products sourced from small, local producers and brands that trade responsibly, fairly and sustainably.

All suppliers receive a fair price for their products from this business founded on respect for staff, customers, suppliers and our planet.

Fran Witt, Fossil Free Sussex

Fran is a passionate climate justice campaigner who has spent her career campaigning with international development charities for justice and equality.

She attended the Paris Climate Talks in 2015, raising the voices of people living on the frontline of the climate crisis, and calling on governments to commit to a fair, ambitious and binding global deal on climate change.

Fran has been involved in Divest East Sussex for the last 3 years, lobbying the East Sussex Council Pensions Committee (which covers Brighton and Hove as well as East Sussex) to move its investments out of the giant oil and gas companies that are driving our current climate crisis.