“If you’re going to be a feminist on a hot planet, you have to be a climate feminist.”
— Katharine K. Wilkinson, a co-editor of the climate anthology “All We Can Save”
This was an interesting article from the New York Times newsletter In Her Words, that discusses climate change and the intersection of white supremacy, patriarchy and the climate crisis and how women and girls will be more heavily impacted by the changes in the climate.
The world’s leading climate scientists issued a landmark report this month with their clearest clarion call to date: The climate crisis is here, it’s humanity’s fault, and it’s a catastrophic, planet-threatening problem that will only get worse before it gets better — if it gets better.
The United Nations report, approved by 195 governments and based on more than 14,000 studies, determined that more than a century of extractive energy use has heated the planet by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of existing emissions, additional warming over the next three decades is inevitable. But the report stressed that the coming years offered a narrow and urgent window of opportunity: the chance to fundamentally change our consumption habits and energy usage to avoid even more disastrous warming.
Katharine K. Wilkinson, a co-editor of the climate anthology “All We Can Save,” argues that while climate change is a collective problem, its impacts will be disproportionate — skewed in its effects on the world’s most vulnerable populations, specifically women and girls.
“The climate crisis is not gender-equal or gender-neutral,” she said. Men have a larger carbon footprint than women, by 16 percent, according to one study. And the top 1 percent of income earners globally, who are overwhelmingly male, are responsible for more carbon emissions than the bottom 50 percent of earners. According to the U.N., that’s roughly 70 million at the top compared with 3.5 billion at the bottom. Yet it is women and girls who bear the burdens in the wake of more frequent climate disasters. Those burdens include displacement — 80 percent of people displaced by climate change are women — as well as increased homelessness, poverty, sexual violence and disease.
In her book, Dr. Wilkinson, who has a doctorate in geography and environment from Oxford, and her co-editor, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, shine a spotlight on the many women researching, leading, campaigning and writing on climate solutions.
In Her Words spoke with Dr. Wilkinson about why the answers are inextricable from gender equality and explained the idea of climate feminism. The conversation has been condensed and lightly edited.
You say the climate crisis is having a disproportionate impact on women. What does that mean?
The Pentagon coined this term of climate as a threat multiplier, which, of course, they’re thinking about national security. But I think it’s such a helpful framing that the climate is a multiplier of any cracks, imbalances or injustices that are present in current society. It amplifies them.
The climate crisis is not gender-neutral in its root causes, which grow out of patriarchy, among other things. It is not gender-neutral in its impacts because women and girls are on the back foot, in various ways. Extreme weather events are being tied to early marriage, to sex trafficking, to domestic violence, all of these things that are already present in society that get turned up a notch or five.