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Climate Change Hits Women Harder, UN Study Finds

As the world warms, the effects of climate change will not be felt equally by all.

Scientists have warned that vulnerable populations — the poor, those with unstable food and housing, and those who rely on agriculture to live — may be more drastically affected by climate change than the world’s wealthy.

But a new report from the United Nations shows that the unevenness of climate change’s effects will also be felt along gender lines.

The study found that women in China, a country already experiencing climate change more dramatically than the rest of the world, will be worse off than men in the country in the face of environmental change.

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And as of now, they still don’t know it.

China’s temperature has already climbed 1 degree Celsius higher over the past 100 years, a more dramatic rise than the rest of the world, its seas have risen faster than other places, and parts of the country have seen significant increases in rain while others have suffered severe drought, according to the report. In the future, China will be especially vulnerable to droughts, floods, typhoons, and extremely hot and extremely cold weather.

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Women in China make up 70% of the agricultural workforce and have less access to income, land, technology, loans, and employment options outside of farm work than their male peers, according to the report. If and when climate change wreaks havoc on China’s agriculture, women will be less able to navigate its challenges.

Beyond a lack of access to resources, a majority of women in the country — 80% — were unfamiliar with disaster emergency plans.

And of the more than 3,000 respondents to a survey included in the research, most said they did not think they were vulnerable to climate change’s effects.

The report’s findings are not entirely surprising: According to the UN, women around the world are more likely to die when natural disasters strike than men and are more likely to suffer adverse effects.

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The Paris agreement on climate change includes provisions that require nations to take steps to protect all populations equally, including making sure vulnerable groups receive extra help.

This study by UN Women China may help guide the Chinese government in better preparing its female citizens for what is to come by teaching them transferrable skills, equipping them with disaster preparedness knowledge, and encouraging their participation in civic life, where conversations about preparedness are beginning to take place.