This past June proved to be the hottest June ever recorded in the United States, and recent reports estimate that 2010 will be the hottest year since the earliest written climate records, dating back to 1880. So what was once a debatable idea has become an undeniable reality: climate change is here and is threatening our way of life. And women, even more so than men, are experiencing the negative impacts of these weather changes.
A study commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme posited that because of women’s limited rights, mobility and access to resources, they will be more affected than their male counterparts by the implications and offshoots of climate change. In many developing countries, climate change directly translates into increased labour for women. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, women spend, on average, 40 billion hours each year (totalling more than a year of labour done by the entire workforce of France) collecting water. Higher temperatures mean that these women will have to go farther to collect the same amount of water, which will increase their already astronomical number of working hours.
However, while women are the main group of people feeling the proverbial ‘heat’ of the changing climate, it must also be acknowledged that they have great potential to be at the forefront of influencing the response to climate change. As women comprise more than half of the world’s population, control more than 65 per cent of the world’s consumer spending power and make 85 per cent of all consumer choices, their ability to mould climate change policy is astounding.
Over the course of the next 10 years, investments into green technology and other measures to limit climate change will increase. This is an opportunity for women to show the world the hidden strength of their economic position. Although currently facing the detrimental impact of climate change, by investing their money and labour hours into the creation of green initiatives and making household decisions that support a green economy, they can stem the tide of climate change and be at the backbone of a greener future.