1. How do we gather the facts?

On this page, we will provide a brief overview of climate change and gender equality.

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 420 parts per million. 

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 Assessment Report 6, the choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years. We need to take action to keep the global increase in temperature to less than 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial age.

To do this, 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.

In addition, we need to advocate for more climate action to minimise global warming.

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


The sustainable development goals

Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (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), 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.

Learn how climate change disproportionately affects women.

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. See also the Zonta Says NOW Fact Sheet.

While some goals do not explicitly mention women, all goals need to be achieved in a gender-responsive manner.

FAQs on Human Rights and Climate Change See page 21 for subchapter on 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.
(page 23)

The Future we Choose is an excellent primer on climate change.

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 shows the key role of women in achieving a sustainable future

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

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

Right Here, Right Now is an excellent primer for Zonta Says NOW.

Natalie Isaacs, founder of One Million Women, asserts in Right Here, Right Now that it is women, set to be most adversely affected by climate change, who have the will, the skills and the power in numbers to lead the way on this critical issue.

Natalie sets out what we as a community and as individuals can achieve in this decade and shares the wisdom of women who have inspired her, from local community leaders to international leaders, First Nations Elders to scientists, and activist campaigners to policymakers. The good news is, it’s all possible — we just have to unite as never before and get it done. Right here, right now.

State of the Climate is a two-yearly update on understanding Australia's climate.

State of the Climate 2022 video and report

Co-developed with the Bureau of Meteorology, this seventh, biennial report draws on the latest climate monitoring, science and projection information.

The 2022 report is a synthesis of our current understanding of climate in Australia and includes new information about Australia’s climate of the past, present and future.

Gender equality took a hit with COVID - and how funds are spent during the recovery could put gender equality back further...

This report summarises why women are 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.