Women’s rights in developing countries can significantly combat today’s climate change crisis. The United Nations Population Fund reported Wednesday that giving women freedom in terms of contraception and family planning would reduce global carbon emissions.
“Empowering women is central to combating climate change,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 14) at the unveiling of the UNFPA’s “State of the World Population 2009” report. She said discussion of gender and its role in climate change has been thus far left out of comprehensive climate change solutions.
“The State of the World Population 2009” said family planning, reproductive health care and gender relations could influence the future course of climate change and affect how humans react to natural disasters that occur due to climate change.
The report indicated that climate change harms women more than men because women make up more than 70 percent of the world’s population of poor, who often feel the brunt of natural disasters and low crop growth. Women also represent a majority of the agricultural work force in developing nations.
“As temperatures go up, food production goes down, and it’s women who will bear the biggest brunt because they are responsible for the food production and sustaining those families,” said President of United Nations Foundation Timothy Wirth.
Robert Engelman, director of WorldWatch, said this is the first report to be published by a UN organization tying the strings between population, climate change, and women’s solidarity.
“Women in charge of their own lives can change our climate for the better,” he said. He reported that 200 million women in the world who want family planning access are restricted from contraceptives.
Rep. Maloney also noted that international financial support for family planning has fallen by more than a half since 1995.
Slower population growth, the report says, would help build a social resilience to climate change’s impact and would lower greenhouse gas emission because fewer individuals would be consuming natural resources.
Population Action International said in a supplemental report that the majority of future population growth is likely to occur in areas of the world that are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, such as poor, urban or costal regions. Therefore, areas where there is high population will be hit hardest by climate change and will accelerate its environmental impact.
Industrialized countries face climate change issues despite giving women more reproductive freedom. The United States has the largest population amongst other industrialized nations and uses more energy than any other country. The United States is also responsible for the largest carbon dioxide emissions among industrialized national worldwide, according to the report.
While the U.S. represents about 5 percent of the total population, it consumes more than 25 percent of the world’s energy and generates five times the world average of carbon dioxide emissions.
The U.S. population continues to rise despite the easy access to birth control. Every year, 8,000 people are added daily in the US. The report indicates a real possibility of the U.S. population reaching one billion by 2100. However, 98 percent of the world’s population growth is in developing countries.
“It goes beyond size and growth. It’s about how we run our lives. Women are more likely to be sustainable consumers,” said Jose Miguel Guzman.
Within the past two centuries, the earth has warmed .74 degrees Celsius due to human activities, according to the report.