Change Font: A A A A Contact Us What's New FAQs Subscribe home
HomePublicationsCatalogGender Inclusion in Climate Change AdaptationClimate change adaptation and its effects on gender issues

Climate change adaptation and its effects on gender issues

According to Patt, Daze, and Suarez (2009), there are different gender attitudes towards risk responses (men are more likely to take risks than women) and in decision-making processes (women are more likely to seek and listen to advice, and learn from others with more experience). Those female tendencies make it easier for consulting agencies to offer help; women are more likely to take advice and carry out things that aid agencies suggest.

We primarily focus on two aspects of climate change adaptation—disaster recovery and agricultural production—along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fourth assessment report (Adger, W. N. et al. 2007)and other mapping efforts. Many studies and reports have been published about climate change and its impacts, but the topic of gender issues and climate change adaptation has received relatively little attention. There are many papers on related topics, such as disaster recovery, agricultural practices, and water and energy issues. Some papers have emphasized the importance of gender consideration as part of the larger climate change issue. In this section, we briefly review some of the literature in this area. UNDP (2008) created a website for gender issues that has a section devoted to climate change. It is an informative guide to academic and nonacademic papers and reports, activities, and organizations related to climate change and gender issues.

Aguilar, Araujo, and Quesada-Aquilar (2007) discussed gender and climate change impact in general in the context of developing countries. According to them, "Women are the main producers of the world's staple crops, providing up to 90% of the rural poor's food intake and producing 60–80% of the food in most developing countries." The impact of climate change in agricultural production has the potential to cause severe food shortages across the world, but the rural poor will be the most affected. They also pointed out, "Climate change does not affect women and men in the same way and it has, and will have, a gender-differentiated impact. Therefore all aspects related to climate change (i.e., mitigation, adaptation, policy development, decision making) must include a gender perspective." In addition they stated that "women are not just helpless victims of climate change—women are powerful agents of change and their leadership is critical." (Aguilar, Araujo, and Quesada-Aquilar ,2007, p3) This point is crucially important in the context of the case studies of Japanese female farmers discussed later. The Canadian International Development Agency (2010) deals with similar points.

The relationships among gender, human rights, and poverty in the context of climate change adaptation have been widely studied (e.g., Denton 2004; Demetriades and Esplen 2008; Polack 2008; Terry 2009; Hertel et al. 2010). In these papers, women are often described as victims of gender-biased social systems. Demetriades and Esplen discussed the "gender–poverty–climate change nexus," which includes physical and mental health, ascribed and legal inferiority, discrimination in the labor market, poverty of time, lack of political clout, insecurities, conflict related to climate change, and cultural constraints. They also stated that women have already begun to learn how to adapt to some of these challenging conditions. Terry (2009) wrote there could be "no climate justice without gender justice." She discussed how poor men and women have to cope with climate risk adaptation without much help. She also pointed out that culturally and financially restricted poor women and men will be affected by the climate risk unevenly and that women will be even more restricted in response to the risk.

Whereas Demetriades and Esplen (2008) and Terry (2009) discussed gender issues in the context of one society, Denton (2004) and Polack (2008) discussed gender issues in the context of international negotiations. Denton noted that north–south cleavage, a market-driven ethos, and the strong focus on the physical aspects of climate change are some of the reasons why gender and human rights issues have been a relative latecomer in the climate change field. Polack (2008) discussed the issue of human rights, including gender, in the context of international negotiation and participation processes. She claimed that the international negotiation process itself is gender biased and that marginalized groups are underresearched.

Hertel et al. (2010) examined the gender–poverty nexus from the point of view of economics. They used disaggregated household data and the Global Trade Analysis Project general equilibrium model to show the impact of climate change across the world in 2030. The most important point in their analysis is that people in poor countries, such as those in Africa, are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. They wrote:

While climate change has a fairly consistent impact on the real cost of living at the poverty line, the impact on household earnings is quite varied. In regions where the bulk of the poor are self-employed in agriculture and adverse productivity impacts are relatively modest, higher global agricultural prices can boost factor returns in the sector, thereby reducing overall poverty. On the other hand, when poverty is dominated by wage earners and urban poverty, the opposite applies. (Hertel et al. ,2010,p583)

The implication of this argument is that, if farmers lose their land, they have to find jobs in other sectors. Often this means they will become wage earners and become even more vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Many authors have investigated gender and migration and agricultural production systems (e.g., Warner 2010; Carr 2008). These discussions are closely related with gender-differentiated impacts from climate change, and the authors try to closely examine the impacts of climate change on the structure of society. Warner (2010) discussed climate-change-induced migration in several regions in the world. She wrote, "Characteristics like gender, age, socio-economic status will all affect unfolding patterns of environmentally induced migration." (Warner, 2010, p410) Essentially she argues that those with money or other social support systems will be able to migrate earlier, while the poor and vulnerable will not initially be able to move. She further stated:

Gender and demographic structure[s] also play a role in environmentally induced migration patterns. Property rights, resource distribution and family roles affect men and women's migration patterns, particularly when the environment becomes a strong push factor. (Warner, 2010, p410)

Carr (2008) and Nielsen and Reenberg (2010) discussed culture and agricultural production systems (including gender differences in agricultural production) in Africa. They stated that a person's social position is determined more by institutions, ethnicity, and gender than by individual ability.

Each of these authors has tried to construct an association or perspective for mainstreaming gender issues in the climate change adaptation discussion. There are several discussions in related sectors of climate change adaptation, including disaster prevention and recovery. One example is Alston's (2009) examination of drought policy and ongoing agricultural reconstruction in Australia. As part of the larger study, Alston pointed out that drought policy remains significantly gender blind.

Researchers have also examined the mental stress and vulnerability of female survivors of disasters. Bonanno, Galea, Bucciarelli, and Vlahov (2007) conducted research on New York City residents after 11 September 2001. They found gender was the most powerful predictor of resilience (ability to recover) and that female gender was associated with a reduced likelihood of resilience.

Some researchers have focused on job recovery after a disaster. Zottarelli (2008) used two waves of survey to examine the determinants of employment recovery status in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina from the point of view of the interaction between location and race. Although displacement, income, and home ownership were significant determinants of job recovery, women were almost twice as likely to fail to recover employment conditions than men because, as Zottarelli concluded, they were expected to take care of their family members and generally had to remain away from their jobs for longer than men. Although research on gender and disaster often focuses on developing countries, it is clear there are still many issues to study in developed countries as well.

In conclusion of this literature review, we can see how climate change impacts differently on women and men. Women are more likely to be affected by the impacts, as they are in a more vulnerable economic, institutional, and political situation, and this applies not only to the damage but also the recovery process. Society needs to improve its decision-making process to reflect the voices of a variety of groups, including women. This will improve society's resilience, as Brody, Demetriades, and Demetriades (2008) pointed out:

Yet women are more likely than men to be absent from decision-making, whether in the household or at community, national or international levels – either because their contribution is not valued or because they do not have the time, confidence or resources to contribute. With more participative processes, these strategies and interventions can truly identify and meet the needs of those they aim to assist. In this way, processes can be forged that respond to local realities while feeding into a broader vision of climate change deceleration. (Brody, Demetriades, and Demetriades , 2008, p2)

Download this Paper [ PDF 316.2KB| 19 pages ].

[previous chapter] [next chapter]

Post a Comment

We welcome your feedback on this publication. Post a comment. ADBI is not obliged to acknowledge or publish comments and may abridge or edit them before web posting.


There are [0] comment(s) for this entry. Post a comment.

    The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), its Board of Directors, or the governments they represent. ADBI does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequences of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms.

    Back to Top 
    © 2014 Asian Development Bank Institute.