Climate Crisis is Not Gender Neutral

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    Syllabus: GS 3/Environment

    • Recently, it has been highlighted that Climate change is not gender-neutral and It represents an enormous challenge to the well-being of women.
    • Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns.
    • Such shifts can be natural, due to changes in the sun’s activity or large volcanic eruptions. 
    • But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
      • Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.
      • The main greenhouse gases that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane.
    • Disproportionate: The climate crisis does not impact everyone equally.
      • Women and girls experience disproportionately high health risks, especially in situations of poverty, and due to existing roles, responsibilities and cultural norms.
      • According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die in a disaster. 
    • Food insecurity: Agriculture is the most important livelihood source for women in India, particularly in rural India.
      • Climate-driven crop yield reductions increase food insecurity, adversely impacting poor households that already suffer higher nutritional deficiencies. 
    • Extreme events and Gender based violence: The world is witnessing an increasing frequency of extreme weather events and climate-induced natural hazards. A report from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in 2021 found that 75% of Indian districts are vulnerable to hydromet disasters (floods, droughts and cyclones).
      • NFHS 5 data showed that over half of women and children living in these districts were at risk. 
      •  Women living in drought-prone districts were more underweight, experienced more intimate partner violence ,worse health and had a higher prevalence of girl marriages 
      • Prolonged heat is particularly dangerous for pregnant women (increasing the risk of preterm birth and eclampsia), young children, and the elderly. 
      • It also impacts their mental health and emotional well-being.
    • Exposure to pollutants : exposure to pollutants in the air (household and outdoor) affects women’s health, causing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and also the unborn child, impairing its physical and cognitive growth.
    • Climate action requires 100% of the population if we want to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5° C. 
    • At the same time, empowering women means better climate solutions; when provided with the same access to resources as men, women increased their agricultural yields by 20% to 30%.
    •  Tribal and rural women, in particular, have been at the forefront of environmental conservation.
      • Giving women and women collectives (Self-help Groups and Farmer Producer Organisations) the knowledge, tools and access to resources would encourage local solutions to emerge. 
    • Adaptation measures will necessarily be different in rural and urban areas as exposure to heat, air pollution and access to water and food will vary by context.
    • On heat waves and water shortage: While gaps in data (sex disaggregated data for multiple social outcomes) and knowledge need to be filled by more research, there are areas where immediate action is needed. 
    • We should reduce the impact of prolonged heat on priority groups (outdoor workers, pregnant women, infants and young children and the elderly).
      • Heat wave warnings (based on local temperature plus humidity), change of timings for outdoor work and schools, cooling rooms in health facilities, public drinking water facilities, and immediate treatment of those with heat stroke will minimise deaths.
      •  Urban local bodies, municipal corporations and district authorities in all vulnerable districts need to have a plan and provide training and resources to key implementers. 
    •  In addition, urban planning to improve tree cover, minimising concrete, increasing green-blue spaces and designing housing that is better able to withstand heat are longer-term actions. 
    • Water shortage is probably the biggest threat to our very existence and needs concerted societal action.
      • Work done in a few districts of Tamil Nadu showed that using geographic information systems, the panchayat could map key water sources, identify vulnerabilities and climate hazards and develop a local plan to improve water access by directing government schemes and resources.
    • Working at the village level: Convergence of sectors and services and prioritisation of actions can happen most effectively at the village or panchayat levels.
      • Devolution of powers and finances and investing in building the capacity of panchayat and SHG members can be India’s way of demonstrating how to build resilience in a community-led and participatory way.
    Do you know ?
    The Supreme Court of India has ruled that people have a right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change, and the right to a clean environment is already recognised as a fundamental right within the ambit of the right to life.
    • There is the need to move beyond stereotypes, recognise the vulnerabilities of all genders, and implement gender-transformative strategies, ensuring a comprehensive and equitable approach to climate adaptation.
    •  Instead of being labelled as victims, women can lead the way in climate action.
    • A gender lens needs to be applied to all State-action plans on climate change
    • There is a need for supporting women’s participation through legislation and policies that guarantee that women will be heard and take part, meaningfully, in decision-making.
    Mains Practice Question 
    [Q] Climate change is a global challenge but its effects are  far from “Gender Neutral”. Discuss