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Climate Change Disproportionately Impacts Rural Women: UN Report

Climate Change Disproportionately Affects Rural Women
An Indian old woman holds a freshly harvested bundle of wheat, Haryana, India

Climate Change Disproportionately Affects Rural Women: UN Report Reveals Stark Inequalities

In a groundbreaking report released this week by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it has come to light that climate change is significantly impacting elderly, low-income women in rural areas.

The findings indicate that this demographic is the most vulnerable to the severe consequences of extreme weather events associated with climate change.

The report discloses that, on average, female-headed households in low- and middle-income countries experience an 8% higher loss of income due to heat stress and a 3% higher loss due to floods when compared to their male-headed counterparts.

Shockingly, with a mere 1-degree Celsius increase in average temperatures, these women could face a staggering 34% greater loss of income than men.

To compile this comprehensive report, data from over 100,000 rural households across 24 different low- and middle-income countries was analyzed.

By integrating this information with 70 years’ worth of georeferenced daily precipitation and temperature data, the authors could discern the impact of climate stress on people’s incomes and labour patterns.

Furthermore, they differentiated this information based on wealth, gender, and age to draw significant conclusions.

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu commented on the report, stating,

Social differences based on location, wealth, gender, and age have a powerful, yet poorly understood, impact on rural people’s vulnerability to the impacts of the climate crisis.

He emphasized the urgent need for increased financial resources and policy attention to address issues of inclusivity and resilience in global and national climate action.

The report sheds light on various factors contributing to the heightened vulnerability of lower-income, female-headed households to climate-related financial impacts.

Discrimination and policies that burden women with care and domestic responsibilities, limit their rights to land, impede decision-making over their labour, and obstruct access to information, finance, technology, and essential services play a significant role.

Conversely, households led by younger individuals find it comparatively easier to secure off-farm job opportunities during extreme weather conditions, making their incomes less susceptible to events such as flooding and temperature extremes.

A critical revelation from the report is the near-invisibility of rural populations and their climate vulnerabilities in national climate plans.

Among the 24 countries analyzed, only 6% of the proposed 4,164 climate actions explicitly mention women, 2% reference youths, less than 1% acknowledge poor people, and approximately 6% mention farmers in rural communities.

The report’s stark findings underscore the pressing need for enhanced visibility and tailored climate policies for the most vulnerable populations. As climate change continues to reshape our world, addressing the specific needs of rural women and other marginalized groups becomes imperative for building a sustainable and equitable future.


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