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In much of the world, women continue to be engaged in their traditional roles as mothers and family caregivers. Climate change impacts women in many ways. Childbearing makes women more vulnerable than men. Women and young girls often spend large parts of their day in the pursuit of fresh drinking water and diminishing food supplies.

The following is a laser talk featured on the Citizens Climate Lobby website. It’s reproduced in BoomerWarrior with permission.

Climate Change Impacts Women Disproportionally

Climate Change Impacts Women Disproportionally, boomer warrior

Credit: Arid landscape of Rahasthan, India. Sandipan Majumdar, Courtesy of Photoshare

Women are and will continue to be disproportionately impacted by climate change. Yet, women are only 12% of those who lead the global climate policy negotiations (Harris, R. 2012). Here are just some of the impacts of climate change on women:


  • Water stress and shortages will lead to an increase in women’s labour in many contexts as they have the primary responsibility of collecting water in many parts of the world (Mearns & Norton, 2010).

Females in Agricultural Labour Force

  • About 2/3 of the female labour force in developing countries and 90% in many African countries are engaged in agricultural work. In the context of climate change, traditional food sources become more unpredictable and scarce. As well, women face loss of income as well as harvests.
  • Related increases in food prices make food more inaccessible to poor people, in particular to women and girls whose health has been found to decline more than male health in times of food shortages. Furthermore, women are often excluded from decision-making on access to and the use of land and resources critical to their livelihoods (United Nations Women Watch).

Gender Differences

  • Gender differences in death rates attributable to natural disasters have been linked directly to women’s economic and social rights (Neumayer and Plümper 2007). Women are more vulnerable to death in extreme weather events; women typically outnumber men by 14 to 1 among those dying from natural disasters (Araujo et al. 2007, p. 1). For example, social prejudices keeps women and girls from learning to swim, and as a result, they are more vulnerable to flooding disasters (Oxfam, 2005).
  • Women are less mobile due to their roles as primary care givers (Araujo et al. 2007, p. 2) making it difficult for them to move as an adaptive response to a rapidly changing climate.
  • Climate change disproportionally affects women due to a lack of power and increased social exclusion in some parts of the world (Mearns & Norton, 2010).

Climate change is and will lead to more competition over resources which in turn leads to conflict and violence.  Conflict amplifies existing gender inequalities.  Women suffer the consequences of conflict such as rape, violence, anxiety, and depression (Osei-Agyemang, 2007).

In an April 2015 poll of Canadian women, 74% of women believe that protecting the climate is more important than building the Energy East pipeline and further developing the oil sands (Climate Action Network Canada, 2015). This is good news for our sisters in the global south, because Canada could help women around the world by pricing carbon pollution at the national level, spurring other nations to do the same and thus helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change on women.


  1. Araujo, A. Quesada-Aguilar, A., Aguilar, L.  Pearl, R. (2007).Gender Equality and Adaptation. Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland.
  2. Barnet, J. Adger W.N. (2007) Climate change, human security and violent conflict. Political Geography
  3. Climate Action Network Canada poll (April 2015) National poll shows Canadians want leadership on climate protection
  4. Harris, R. (2010). Women’s Environmental & Development OrganizationWomen Making the Case for U.S. Action on Climate Change. Retrieved from:
  5. Mearns, R. & Norton, A. (2010). Climate Change: Equity and Vulnerability in a Warming World. The World Bank.  
  6. Neumayer, Eric, & Plümper, Thomas (2007). The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002.Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97 (3): 551–66.
  7. Osei-Agyemang, M. (2007). Temperatures Rising: Understanding the Relationship between Climate Change, Conflict and Women.Women & Environments, 74/75. Sourced here:
  8. (2005). The tsunami’s impact on women.
  9. Sumati, N., Kirbat, P. & Sexton, S. (2004). A Decade after Cairo: Women’s Health in a Free Market Economy.Corner House Briefing 3.
  10. United Nations Women Watch.


climate ironyRolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Activist and a blogger. He’s a member of 350.Org (Ottawa), Climate Reality Canada and Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa). Rolly has been published widely in both print and online publications. You can follow him on FacebookTwitterLinkedin and Pinterest.

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  1. Whether women across the world are liberated, free, have equality with men in the workplace, or they are repressed by male dominated relationships, dependent and have no voice in the world, we all have some things in common.

    Our maternal, pragmatic nature knows what is best for our children. Generally, we are not aggressive or war mongering. We have a sense of what equality should look like. And we have an empathy for all other life that is often missing in male dominated societies.

    We need to see a balanced society, where there is equality. Women can have a tempering effect on the aggression of men. The happiest societies are those where everything is equally available to all. This doesn’t mean communism (a dictatorial form of equality) but rather equal opportunity, health and emotional security for all led by competent leaders within a group.

    Until we start to look again at the basic tennents of life and what is essential to a healthy population, using the gifts of thought from the females in society as well as men, we will always see the greedy power struggles that ensue over the Earth’s resources. We need balance and respect for all members of society. We also need to recognise that some of society is better suited to lead by example more than others.

    Our leadership (politicians) is currently not run using the best leaders. Money talks and he/she who has the most financial backing can run the most prolific election campaigns. This is corruption and it is time for a better way.

    The environment, water, food, shelter, warmth, clothing and safety are the most basic requirements for life. Anything we do in our world must meet these basic requirements and so often our polititians get it wrong because they have forgotten the rules by which we survive. Time for more women in parliaments across the world….we need some thoughtful leaders if we are to survive the consequences of a changing climate that will affect every basic tennent of life.

    • I`m encouraged by the greater presence of women in world leadership roles both in politics and the climate movement. There is plenty of evidence that our male-dominated governance systems have failed us miserably. My current government is attempting to redress the gender imbalance so typical of past governments. When asked in the fall of 2015 why his cabinet appointments had so many women, Prime Minister Trudeau simply said “because it’s 2015.”

      Thank you Colette for your responses.


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