Gender and Climate Change in the 'developed' world / in the Global North- a short introduction

Starting point
Most knowledge on gender and climate change is available for developing countries (addressing the situation in developing countries). This is due to the situation that climate change generally impacts poor countries more than rich ones because of their geographical situation, and because of limited opportunities to adapt to climate change. Inside these countries, like in most developed countries too, there is a similar divide of the impacts between poor and rich people, and between women and men. In short: women are the most vulnerable to climate change, bear the brunt of the burdens, but are also agents for change. This is quite well accepted in the climate change community, in policy as well as in research. It generally doesn’t differ between gender and sex (gender = women), nor addresses cultural and structural injustices.

On the other hand, there is a strong resistance to accept and recognise the gender dimensions of climate change policy – both in adaption and mitigation – in the Global North. Given the situation that industrialised countries are historically the ones who caused climate chance, and thus responsible for the climate crisis, the main efforts to mitigate climate change must be done in these regions. And given the in-equalities we are facing in developed countries (gender, income…) like in developing countries, policies and measures to mitigate or adapt to climate change might reinforce these inequalities and traditional gender roles and responsibilities.

One of the reasons of the resistance is the lacking evidence for gender and climate change linkages in general and for the benefits of integrating gender into climate change policy and research. Thus there is a strong need for research.

There is at least some evidence that
• Gender-differentiated roles and responsibilities in families and households, as well as gender-segregated labour markets and income gaps, cause differentiated vulnerabilities of women and men to the effects of climate change.
• Gender roles and identities are significant for analysing the causes of climate change in terms of amounts, consumption fields and purposes of CO2 emissions.
• Gendered incomes and assets, information and education levels might result in differentiated capabilities to mitigate emissions as well as differing coping and adaptation strategies
• Gender differences in perceptions and attitudes towards climate change are quite well documented. The gender differences that they quite often demonstrate, may be useful for argumentation, however, they cannot replace substantiated gender analyses.
Therefore, it is important to understand that the social construction of gender and existing power relations interact with climate change and also play a role in climate policy. In order to analyse climate change policies and measures from a gender perspective, and to raise awareness about possible implications, we identified some gender dimensions (the full set of gender dimensions can be found here: http://www.genanet.de/en/topics.html). These dimensions apply to all areas of climate protection – from energy supply and energy usage to mobility, agriculture, forestry, water supply, and consumption.

One of the problems we are facing in addressing gender dimensions of climate change is that mostly all data available are sex (not gender) disaggregated data. Using these data in arguing for the necessity to integrate gender into climate change research, policy and measures might reinforce tradition gender roles and stereotypes.

• How to avoid stepping into this trap of stereotyping and traditional gender roles and responsibilities?
• Which data and research do we need to transform climate change policy in order to reduce injustices in general and gender inequalities in particular?
• How can we link gender research to climate change policy making (e.g. what are the benefits of integrating gender for climate change mitigation and adaptation)?

Comments

irissan's picture

I have read your reply in the other thread, and I consider it more fruitful to summarize a reply here.
I completely agree on the struggle of a gender correlated investigation, but I also see strong efforts put into that direction. I felt (maybe it is just a personal impression) that some colleagues feel addressed to give a opinion on gender issues while not being really up to the task. It is something common to social sciences that people don't feel they really need to study them to understand them, something really far from the natural-sciences paradigm so to say.
If the study is done and presented in a peer review international paper, I don't see the need to explain, now and again why women are more vulnerable to climate change for example. One could just quote the literature, as one can do when building up a new technique. Would that not be enough?
Maybe there are a need to visualize this sex-disaggregated data and its evaluation, and give it a huge impact and marketing so there is no need to overcome this stereotype every time.
If there are statistical proof that women-driven initiatives tends to present climate-friendly solutions there is a need for an official answer, namely a women-driven climate observer cabinet, among others.

There are just a few thoughts... What do you think?

uroehr's picture

"If the study is done and presented in a peer review international paper, I don't see the need to explain, now and again why women are more vulnerable to climate change for example. One could just quote the literature, as one can do when building up a new technique. Would that not be enough?"
Yes, but why then is there so much research on climate change not at all addressing gender issues? That's what we have to lobby for, in terms of research programmes and calls - like the ones in Horzon2020. But also with researchers itself and politicians using research to inform their decisions. All of the immediately come up the the question "why is it important to integrate gender". So you have to explain - if you like it or not.
Additionally, there is currently quite little research or peer reviewed articles on gender and climate change (in the Global North) we can refer to. Thus, again: WE NEED RESEARCH ON GENDER (RELATIONS) AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

Elaine Enarson's picture

Absolutely - and that is a burden but also an opportunity. We need material support for people and org's with a strong gender perspective (by which I mean competence- knowledge- skill in gender-based analysis) doing this important research and doing it with a balanced approach that doesn't diminish vulnerabilities and differential impacts but highlights how women can and do take the initiative as leaders in so many domains where climate issues emerge. At the risk of absorbing too much of the scarce research $$ once again for the global North, I believe those of us 'in the belly of the beast' have an obligation to do this work--ideally as a multidisciplinary community of action research scholars. Making the empirical case for the relevance of gender analysis to climate/disaster risk and risk reduction in every part of the world can also help build a truly global community of practice. Documenting women's grassroots leadership in the North is essential given the resistance we face now to even recognizing how gender comes into play in climate/disaster work here.

Amber Fletcher's picture

Thank you for this post, Ulrike. I also want to discuss your question of "how to avoid stepping into this trap of stereotyping and traditional gender roles and responsibilities?". I raised a similar issue in my own previous post (http://www.genderportal.eu/group/gendering-climate-change-canada): how do we avoid victimizing discourses that portray women as universally vulnerable, while still acknowledging gender disparities and power relations? I think this is an important question. Although admittedly my approach still utilizes a gender binary (women/men), I do find it useful to investigate the particular ways in which men are vulnerable because of gender constructions. I think this adds some complexity and complicates the stereotypical discourses of "women = vulnerable" and "gender = women". It also challenges hegemonic masculinity to see men as vulnerable.

We both discussed Global North/South in our posts, and I completely agree with your statement about the different ways that gender and vulnerability are conceptualized in North vs. South. I think it is also useful to examine the operation of masculinity in Global South contexts as well -- to examine how masculinity can cause vulnerability amongst men in the South too. This would add complexity not only to the gender issue but also to the North/South binary, by illustrating that gendered complexities exist in all contexts (otherwise, we risk portraying the North as the only place where complexities exist). I have seen some research on masculinity, heroism, and men's risk in Hurricane Mitch. I would like to see more research on masculinity and vulnerability in both Global North and South.

But, this also begs the question: to what extent does focusing on men detract attention from women's important vulnerabilities, and are we ready to do this?

irissan's picture

That's a great argument, many thanks!
There are then data bases, with for example number of peer reviewed papers addressing gender issues and not?
I mean to build up an strategy in order to fully explain the need...

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Active Threads:

2016-Feb-24

3 years 9 months ago
Posted by: joerg
14:00 – 17:00 CETPart II of our e-discussion focuses on concrete (disciplinary specific) challenges for incorporating a gender perspective into research dealing with climate action, the environment, resource efficiency and raw materials. In addition, practical examples from the field will give guidance and illustrate the potential benefits in terms of research excellence. What are good...
Comments: 48

2016-Feb-23

3 years 9 months ago
Posted by: Gotelind Alber
With my first input in this discussion, I’d like to focus on gender in the UNFCCC process. In the fundamental documents, the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, gender has been absent, and it took until 2001 to raise the issue and adopt a COP decision on gender balance in UNFCCC bodies, and until 2012 to adopt a more comprehensive decision on gender which involves also actions to promote gender-...
Comments: 10
3 years 9 months ago
Posted by: uroehr
Starting point Most knowledge on gender and climate change is available for developing countries (addressing the situation in developing countries). This is due to the situation that climate change generally impacts poor countries more than rich ones because of their geographical situation, and because of limited opportunities to adapt to climate change. Inside these countries, like in most...
Comments: 5
3 years 9 months ago
Posted by: uroehr
I am a civil engineer and sociologist by background, and have been working on gender issues in planning, Local Agenda 21, environment, and especially in energy and climate policy for about 30 years. I was committed to mainstream gender into climate policy on local and national levels and have been involved in gendering the UNFCCC process since the very beginning. I am co-founder of the global...
Comments: 3
3 years 9 months ago
Posted by: Amber Fletcher
Hello Everyone, My name is Amber Fletcher, and I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina, Canada. I study the social dimensions of climate change (both mitigation and adaptation) in agricultural contexts, with a focus on gender. In particular, I study how women in agriculture are affected by—and respond to—climate extremes such as...
Comments: 6
3 years 9 months ago
Posted by: joerg
14:00 – 17:00 CETDuring part I of our e-Discussion, experts are invited to give an overview of the field including recent developments such as for example the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Definitions of “gender” and “sex” are not identical across the manifold actors spanning different languages, cultures and certainly scientific disciplines. Neither are...
Comments: 34