Seeing the Environment from a Gender Lens

Kanav N Sahgal, M.A. Development | 2019 – 21

The sixth assessment of the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report presents unsurprising but hard-hitting findings about the impact of human-induced climate change on human systems and ecosystems. The report noted that indigenous people, ethnic minorities, low-income households, and those residing in informal settlements were the worst affected by the ongoing climate crisis. Climate change and global warming have already caused massive biodiversity loss and put indelible pressure on food and water systems. Thus, the appropriate way forward, according to the report and other sources would be to adopt a mix of adaptive and mitigative measures that can reduce risks and vulnerabilities and help build climate-resilient processes. The success of these measures would depend on a range of factors — from the presence of effective governance bodies and supportive public policies to sufficient financial resources.

Despite much progress over the years, adaptation gaps still exist, and lower-income population groups benefit the least from adaptive measures (as cited in the IPCC report). Moreover, recent events empirically support this claim. If we take the recent heatwave plaguing northwest India and Pakistan as an example, we see that it has been rightfully described as anomalous not only because of its intensity, but also because of its duration, speed of onset, and massive geographic spread. As a result, it adversely impacted some of the most vulnerable people — rickshaw and auto drivers, construction workers, and other daily wage labourers whose livelihoods are dependent on them as they step out in the scorching heat to work. But most of them are men, what about women and girls?

A 2017 report by the Aspen Institute found that gender discrimination, social norms, and taboos about female health all contributed to worse health outcomes for poor women in India during heatwaves. In fact, contrary to popular belief …

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