1. How do we gather the facts?

On this page, we will provide a brief overview of climate change and gender equality. The sidebar will contain posts on a variety of subjects, so please browse through them. This site will point you to useful sources of information and is not designed to re-invent the wheel.

Why is our climate changing?

Climate change is caused by having too much heat-trapping greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, water vapour, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons.

The greenhouses gases help to warm the planet, resulting in loss of sea ice, accelerated sea-level rise, and longer, more intense heat waves.  This is why we are experiencing more severe droughts, floods, fires, and storms.

The graph below shows how, for hundreds of thousands of years, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was below 300 parts per million. Since 1950 the level has rapidly increased and today, according to NASA, is 417 parts per million. 

NASA Graph
CO2 levels have risen dramatically since the 1950s.

The video on the same page as the graph shows how the world has been rapidly warming in the last few years.

Each day we hear of more extreme weather events around the world impacting people’s lives, devastating their homes, and destroying biodiversity. We are living in a climate crisis. 

According to the International Panel on Climate Change, the next decade is critical. We need to take action to keep the global increase in temperature to less than 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial age.

We need to halve emissions by 2030, halve them again by 2040 and keep going until we achieve zero emissions around 2050. If we don’t take action, global temperatures will continue to rise and this is what is at stake.

What does climate change have to do with gender equality?

Women and girls are more heavily impacted by climate change than men.

  • Women, as caregivers, and food providers, are more vulnerable when flooding and drought occur; 
  • Women face systematic violence that escalates during periods of instability and can precipitate early marriage or forced prostitution as a way to survive;
  • During extreme weather events, women are at greater risk of being injured, killed, displaced and unemployed.
  • Globally women have less socioeconomic power than men, so it is harder for them to recover from disasters; and
  • The UN highlights that gender-sensitive responses to climate change are needed – but average female representation on negotiating bodies is well below 30%. 

Much of this disadvantage can be rectified through Zonta’s existing advocacy, health, education, and violence eradication programs.  However, we need to ramp up our activities to ensure that girls are educated, child marriage is ended, gender equality gaps are closed, and women are supported to take on leadership positions in the workplace, community and political spheres.

Christiana Figueres, a former diplomat from Costa Rica, headed up the UN Paris climate conference and is a total inspiration.  She explains that building gender equality is an important part of the climate solution:

Educating young women and empowering women to come to decision-making tables is the strongest thing that we can do for the climate. When there are more women in boardrooms and in high-level positions in institutions, you get decisions that are wiser and longer term.

Christiana Figueres


Learn how climate change disproportionately affects women.
Zonta International Statement on Climate Change – A Gender Equality Issue

Zonta International’s Statement on Climate Change highlights Zonta’s commitment to creating a gender-equal, sustainable world and calls on governments to take action now.

FAQs on Human Rights and Climate Change

See page 21 regarding the importance of ensuring that climate actions address the specific needs of women.

Just like human rights, the Sustainable Development Goals are interlinked and Goal 5 (gender equality) must be taken into consideration in the attainment of all other goals, including Goal 13 (climate action). The absence of an explicit reference to women and gender equality in some goals, particularly those
most relevant to climate action (such as Goals 13, 7, 12, 14 and 15), does not exclude the need for efforts to be made to achieve these goals in a gender-responsive manner.

Sustainable Development Goals

Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the SDGs provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

The Future We Choose

Book: The Future we Choose was the inspiration behind this Zonta Says NOW initiative. Written by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, this book clearly steps out what the problems are with the climate and, more importantly, what we can do about them.

The Case for Stubborn Optimism on Climate

Video: The case for stubborn optimism on climate. (7mins 59 secs)

Christiana Figueres speaking at the TED Countdown global launch on 10 October 2020.

Outrage and Optimism

Podcast: Outrage and Optimism is a weekly, entertaining podcast hosted by Christiana Figueres, Tim Rivett-Carnac and Paul Dickenson. Each week they discuss solutions to the climate crisis and interview some fascinating guests. In the last two years guests have included David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Jane Fonda, scientists, astronauts, artists, oil company bosses, fashion designers, politicians, royalty, musicians – and many more.

This podcast has a wealth of information and is great edutainment for the morning commute!

How Empowering Women and Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming

TED talk: How empowering women and girls can help stop global warming is a powerful talk given by Katharine Wilkinson from Project Drawdown. She describes three key solutions to stop global warming:

  • providing financial support to women to enable them to farm their land more efficiently;
  • educating girls so they can stay at school, have more employment options and be less vulnerable to child marriage; and
  • enabling more women to have access to birth control so they have choices about having children.

State of the Climate 2020

Video and report: co-developed by the CSIRO with the Bureau of Meteorology, this sixth, biennial report draws on the latest climate monitoring, science and projection information for Australia.

Observations, reconstructions and climate modelling paint a consistent picture of ongoing, long-term climate change interacting with underlying natural variability. Associated changes in weather and climate extremes—such as extreme heat, heavy rainfall and coastal inundation, fire weather and drought—have a large impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities and ecosystems.

They affect the lives and livelihoods of all Australians.

Gender and climate change in the context of COVID-19

This report summarises why women at more at risk from the impacts of climate change. It also explains why a gender-sensitive response to COVID-19 is required to prevent the gender equality gap from widening.