From extreme weather events to water shortages, reduced harvests, and increased spread of infectious diseases, climate change can affect human life in countless ways. Climate change is not simply an environmental challenge. It is a human story, fundamentally about people.
However, climate change does not affect us equally. Compared to men, women are more vulnerable to its impacts, as women constitute 70% of the world’s impoverished population and are more dependent for their survival and livelihood on natural resources increasingly strained by climate change.
Given these disproportionate effects on women, one would expect them to have an equal, if not greater, say in public discussions on climate change. Yet, in fact, their side of these stories have been mostly ignored.
The silenced crowd
In media coverage of climate change issues, women are often a neglected group. A recent report published by Media Matters unearthed a stark imbalance between men’s and women’s likelihood of being quoted in media coverage of the U.N. climate reports in 2014. The findings suggest that less than 15% of those quoted or interviewed in major print, broadcast, and cable outlets in the United States were female.
The gender gap in media reporting on climate change is perhaps more striking in developing countries. A new article (Frontline farmers, backline sources) in this month’s Feminist Media Studies shows that in Uganda, where 56% of women are farmers, both female sources and bylines are completely left out of page one, two, or three of the prominent newspapers when covering climate change topics.
Another unpleasant truth is that female sources are not only far less preferable than male sources (61%), but even less utilized than anonymous sources (20%).
What happens when women actually speak? Well, they are hardly considered the experts.