Strategies for managing global warming fall into two broad categories: mitigation and adaptation. This case study focuses on mitigation in industrialized countries, because these countries are responsible for the “largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases” (United Nations, 2002). Mitigation involves strategies to slow anthropogenic climate change, typically by curbing emissions of greenhouse gases through changes in energy supply, transportation, agriculture and urban infrastructure, as well as lifestyle (Barker et al., 2007). The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) states that “there is a lack of awareness of […] the gender aspects of mechanisms to mitigate climate change” as well as “a lack of research to inform debates on these issues” (EIGE, 2012).
This case study focuses on methodological approaches to gender analysis in climate change.
From the start, gender analysis must avoid essentialism and over-emphasizing differences between women and men. Looking at women as an undifferentiated group and opposing this to men as an undifferentiated group (simply disaggregating data by sex) misses important factors influencing behaviors in relations to the environment. These factors include income, age, and geographic location.
The chart below shows differences in energy use between single women and single men in multiple income categories (see source for definitions of income categories; Räty et al., 2009). Single persons were selected to avoid methodological challenges in attributing energy use to a specific individual within a multi-individual household. These data are:
Data supporting this type of analysis are rare (EIGE, 2012). In lieu of comprehensive data, figures from Germany are presented. Methodological challenges in interpreting available data include:
In Germany, single men consume on average 147,000 MJ/year, 37% more than single women’s 108,000 MJ/year (not shown in graph above) (Räty et al., 2009). The majority of this difference disappears when data are corrected for income. For example, in the lowest income category, single men consume only 1% more energy than single women (119,601 MJ vs. 118,368 MJ). In the highest income category, single men consume 2% more energy than single women (292,221 MJ vs. 285,234 MJ). Highest-income women consume 141% more energy than lowest-income women; for men, the figure is 144%. Income is therefore an important factor to analyze when looking at women's and men’s energy consumption.
We highlight the Räty et al. study because it is one of the few to consider gender behaviors in relation to other social factors. Looking at single women and men, however, does not take into consideration asymmetries in family relations: Women more often than men care for dependents (children and the elderly). An ideal study would compare women and men, controlling for all other relevant factors, including age, socioeconomic status, education, partnering status, household configuration (number of children and other dependents), geographic location (including density of settlement), and types of available transport. Occupation, age, geographic location, and household composition have all been shown to correlate with transport-related emissions in the United Kingdom (Brand et al., 2008). Future studies of gender in relation to climate change might consider these as other important intersecting factors.
Within any given income group (see chart above), energy consumption differences between women and men are most pronounced in transportation. In the lowest income category, men expend 160% more energy on transport than women (21,372 MJ vs. 8,220 MJ). In the highest income category, men expend 48% more energy (75,624 MJ vs. 50,964 MJ). These differences shrink as income increases, but they do not disappear. They are significant because transportation is a major source of GHG emissions—see below:
Integrated public and private transportation systems will be an important part of the solutions
). The International Energy Agency (IEA), United States Energy Information Administration, and World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) all project worldwide transport energy consumption to increase 2% per year in the coming decades. As "almost all of this new [transport] consumption is expected to be in petroleum fuels […] CO
emissions will essentially grow in lockstep with energy consumption" (Ribeiro et al., 2007)—see below.
Individuals can do their part to reduce emissions. They can choose to walk, bicycle, or take public transportation when possible. They can choose smaller, more energy-efficient cars. They can carpool, or travel shorter distances for leisure. But user choice goes only so far. Urban planning and design are central to minimizing the need for transportation, to maximizing efficient public transportation, and to mitigating gender inequality (for designing cities to enhance gender equality, see Case Study: Housing and Neighborhood Design). Examples of projects include:
Other factors, however, may intersect with gender. These include:
Large-scale comprehensive studies provide limited information on the interaction between gender and other factors—more research is needed to increase understanding (Pucher et al., 2011).
Researchers are beginning to study climate change mitigation from a gender perspective. Efforts to analyze factors that intersect with gender—including income, age, travel patterns, geographic location, and environmental attitudes—contribute to a better understanding of climate impacts and responses to mitigation measures. This understanding may improve the effectiveness of mitigation strategies by ensuring buy-in from all energy users. It may also support efficiency and equality by achieving mitigation at the lowest possible social and economic cost, and by ensuring that costs are shared in equitable ways.
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