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The existing link between gender inequality and climate change

Gender inequalities are reflected in differential vulnerability and exposure to the hazards posed by climate change and addressing them is key to increase the adaptive capacities of societies.

In a new study published in Nature Communications, an interdisciplinary group of researchers from IIASA, Humboldt University, the Vienna University of Economics and Business and Climate Analytics highlight the importance of incorporating gender in scenarios assessing future climate impacts and underscore the relevance of addressing gender inequalities in policies aiming to foster climate-resilient development.

The authors find that rapid improvements in gender inequality are possible under a sustainable development scenario already in the near-term. The share of girls growing up in countries with the highest gender inequality could be reduced to about 24 per cent in 2030 compared to about 70 per cent today.

“Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, not because there’s something inherently vulnerable about women, but because of different social and cultural structures that stand in their way,” said study lead author Marina Andrijevic, a researcher associated with Humboldt University and Climate Analytics. “Disempowerment comes in many forms, from the lack of access to financial resources, education and information, to social norms or expectations that affect, for example, women’s mobility. These considerations have to be taken into account when thinking about what challenges to adaptation a society might face.”

Inequalities are reflected in income and wealth, which remain central subjects of socioeconomic research, but also in gender, education, racial and ethnic profiles. Socially marginalised groups are often affected by the interplay of these different dimensions and are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The study employed an established Gender Inequality Index of the United Nations Development Programme for its projections combining it with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), which are widely used in climate change research.

Source: Nature Communications.

There is a linkage between gender inequality and adaptive capacity to climate change. For example, women’s representation in politics has been shown to lead to more stringent climate action, thus affecting mitigation policies as well.

“Our projections provide an evidence-based assessment of future trajectories of gender inequality that can be used as an input to guide policymaking at the global level,” added co-author Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, an IIASA researcher and professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. “While achieving gender equality does not automatically ensure the resilience of societies to the impacts of climate change, especially at low levels of socioeconomic development, it is an important factor for improving adaptive capacity globally.”

Mrs Andrijevic hopes that this work will help streamline considerations of gender inequality in the analyses of current and future challenges for adaptation to climate change and what they mean for the world with the increasing impacts of climate change.

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