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Women and Children Are Being Seen and Heard on Climate Change

By Ellen Hall
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Climate change affects all of us – but some more than others.  Women, children, people of color, the poor, and the elderly suffer the impacts more acutely.

The reasons vary. Some populations are dependent on industries like agriculture, which can be disrupted by drought or extreme weather. Low-income communities are more likely to be located near power plants or other sources of pollution, and may also lack adequate health care services or infrastructure. Children, because of their small size, growing bodies, and rapid metabolisms, are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures and dehydration, and more sensitive to pollutants in air and water. For the elderly. carbon pollution and extreme temperatures can worsen their existing health conditions, while mobility challenges can make it difficult for them to get the care they need.

These populations may be vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean they’re silent. Latino Americans, for example, are considerably more aware of and supportive of climate solutions than Americans overall. And just this week, we’ve seen numerous examples of women and children speaking up and demanding climate action.

Women Are Taking the lead

Globally, women are more susceptible to climate change than men – in many countries, they do the majority of agricultural work and water gathering. Women are more likely to be economically disadvantaged. And because of their roles as caregivers, women may be more affected by the stress and trauma of natural disasters. This is not just an issue for developing nations. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, 80 percent of the residents left behind after the storm were women.

Perhaps because of these reasons, women are also statistically more likely to believe that climate change is a serious threat. And women are increasingly active and influential in advocating for climate solutions.

On March 15, women mayors and business leaders from around the world gathered in New York City for the inaugural Women4Climate conference. Hosted by Anne Hidalgo, Chair of C40 Cities and Mayor of Paris, the event officially launched the C40 Women4Climate initiative, which pledges to motivate and inspire women to become climate leaders. Mayor Hidalgo stressed the vital role women are playing and have the potential to play, whether in politics, business, NGOs, or as innovators.

All around the world, in city halls, corporate boardrooms, and on the streets of our cities, women are demanding action to protect the planet from the threat of climate change.

Cities contribute 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – but they’re also uniquely positioned to move the needle on addressing climate change. As Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who attended the Women4Climate summit, said in this interview, "We know in cities we can use our procurement power, our power in building codes, and our bully pulpit to say we must fight climate change. More than ever when federal policies are uncertain, we know cities can get a lot accomplished – and influence national policy.”

Kids are fighting for their future

One reason children are more vulnerable to climate change is that they are often dependent on the behaviors of adults – it’s not always possible for them to take matters into their own hands. But some young people are doing just that.

In the small Minnesota town of Grand Marais, a group of five students aged nine to 16 years old brought a “climate inheritance resolution” before their city council. Demanding that action be taken now to safeguard their future, the resolution called for a climate action plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and for the “youth voice” to be considered when making climate policy decisions. The students came armed with an assessment of the city’s current climate efforts, which they said could be substantially improved.

The resolution was accepted, and favorably received. Said Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux, “The City is viewing this as an investment in future cost mitigation and planning that we will have to undertake anyway when climate change begins to affect us more than it does now.”

Communities and local governments may well be our best hope for continuing meaningful progress on climate change – and now is the time for all of us to speak out and help ensure a safer, healthier world for our children, our loved ones, and ourselves. Download our new communications guide to discover the most effective language for engaging your community on climate solutions.