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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Projects | IRI THESys | News | ‘Overcoming gender inequality for climate resilient development’ published in Nature Communications

‘Overcoming gender inequality for climate resilient development’ published in Nature Communications

Co-authored by THESys Doctorate Marina Andrijevic, the study finds that gender equality is urgently required to address climate change.

Vulnerability to the impacts of climate change differs on a wide range of factors including socio-economic status, education, ethnicity and gender. As such, building capacity to adapt to climate change urgently requires eradicating inequalities of many sorts, including those in terms of gender.

In a new study published on December 15th, an interdisciplinary group of researchers from IRI THESys, IIASA, the Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Climate Analytics explored the specific linkages between gender inequality and adaptive capacity to climate change. 

“Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, not because there’s something inherently vulnerable about women, but because of different social and cultural structures that stand in their way,” explains study lead author Marina Andrijevic, member of the THESys Doctorate Program, “Disempowerment comes in many forms, from the lack of access to financial resources, education, and information, to social norms or expectations that affect, for example, women’s mobility. These considerations have to be taken into account when thinking about what challenges to adaptation a society might face.”

The study used an established Gender Inequality Index of the United Nations Development Programme which measures whether women are disadvantaged in comparison to men in health, education, as well as labour market and political participation. The researchers found that though improving women’s access to resources such as maternal health, eradicating inequalities could support resilience to the effects of climate change. It provided the first ever quantified scenarios of gender inequality over the 21st century, using the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). The pathways, which are used throughout climate research, is significant to understand societies’ adaptive capacity to climate change. 

Through projections of trajectories of gender inequality, combined with existing scenarios for population growth, education and income, the study highlighted the challenges faced by future societies in their efforts to foster sustainable development. It underscored the importance of accounting for future gender inequalities in both analyses of future challenges to climate change adaptation, but and in climate also mitigation policies. In addition, women’s representation in politics has been shown to lead to more rigorous climate action, thus affecting mitigation policies as well.

“Our projections provide an evidence-based assessment of future trajectories of gender inequality that can be used as an input to guide policymaking at the global level,” notes coauthor Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, an IIASA researcher and professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. “While achieving gender equality does not automatically ensure the resilience of societies to the impacts of climate change, especially at low levels of socioeconomic development, it is an important factor for improving adaptive capacity globally.”

Further Pprojections of future socioeconomic dynamics and gender inequality show that faster societal progress in areas such as education can could improve the situation lives of for millions of girls around the world already inby 2030. The “w’What-if’” scenarios defined by the SSPs are also useful for the assessment of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and can be used to monitor the fulfillment of the objective of achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls by 2030.“

“We hope that our work will help streamline considerations of gender inequality in our analyses of current and future challenges for adaptation to climate change, and what they mean for the world with the increasing impacts of climate change,” says Andrijevic.