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Environment & Climate Change , World

Why climate change means women are having to work harder and longer

by Disha Shetty October 24, 2022

This Q&A was republished from a Fuller Project newsletter on October 24, 2022. Subscribe here.

World leaders will gather in Egypt next month for the annual COP United Nations climate conference to discuss carbon emission reduction and ways to finance projects that help communities impacted by climate change. The IPCC, the U.N. body that assesses the science of climate change, has said women and girls living in poorer countries are particularly vulnerable to these impacts. 

Martina Angela Caretta is a senior lecturer in human geography at Sweden’s Lund University and a co-author of the IPCC report. One takeaway from the report: Richer countries with a history of high carbon emissions should provide more funding to projects that help these women. Caretta spoke to The Fuller Project’s Disha Shetty. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

In what ways is climate change likely to push up women’s labor?

Women’s labor is going to be impacted by the lack of natural resources that climate change has been causing, and is going to cause more extensively in the future. And with that I mean, for instance, water, which is my area of specialty. There is research that shows that because of climate change several areas in the world are going to experience more extreme droughts and that will mean that in those parts of the world where women are responsible for fetching water, they will have to walk farther. 

Another element that we can mention is also related to water and particularly to floods and droughts. What we see is decreasing yields due to floods and droughts. It means that other crops that are drought resistant need to be planted. This requires more planting, more weeding, more watering – particularly where those crops are used for subsistence agriculture. We see all over the world, women being in charge of subsistence agriculture. That’s another area where women are going to see their labor increase.

Who are the women likely to be worst-hit and in which parts of the world?

The women that have already been worst-hit, and will be even more [so] in the future are those who are living in the Global South and are dependent on natural resources for their livelihood — subsistence agriculture, in particular.

In what ways can COP27 and participating governments respond to this?

Funding, first and foremost, for projects that are clearly directed at women, particularly women in the Global South. I think there is a need to increase awareness around this issue. It’s hard to give a face to climate change, and to those that are going to be impacted by climate change. And the face of women in the Global South is the one that the general public needs to be made aware of.

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