remain noticeably absent from Copenhagen agenda.
Washington, D.C.-Women will bear the greatest burden of a changing
climate but so far have received little attention from negotiators
working toward a new global climate deal, according to the 2009 edition
of the United Nations Population Fund's State of World Population.
Robert Engelman, Worldwatch Institute's Vice President for Programs, was
lead author of the report, which argues that women's issues, and
especially women's health issues, have been largely overlooked in
discussions leading up to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark,
"This is the first report in which a United Nations agency has connected
climate change to human population and the status of women," Engelman
said. "Its main finding-that investing in women and erasing the
constraints on their achievement will slow climate change and build
social resilience-is powerful and hopeful."
In addition to exploring the inherent connections between population and
climate change, the report examines the climate issue as it pertains to
multiple aspects of health, development, and the global environment.
These connections have long remained at the forefront of Worldwatch's
State of World Population 2009 shows that investments that empower women
and girls-particularly investments in education and health-also bolster
economic development and reduce poverty. But these investments have an
additional beneficial impact on climate.
Girls with higher levels of
education, for example, tend to have smaller families as adults, and the
ensuing lower fertility rates contribute to slower growth in greenhouse
gas emissions and improved adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
A recent report published by Worldwatch and the United Nations
Foundation, Global Environmental Change: The Threat to Human Health
worldwide currently lack access to the family planning services they
want or need, ranging from contraception to reproductive health
The report's author, Dr. Samuel S. Myers of Harvard
University, asserts that providing these services and allowing women to
decide for themselves whether, when, and how often to give birth is an
adaptive strategy against many of the predicted impacts of climate
change-all of which will be exacerbated by larger populations needing
access to resources, secure homes, and productive lands.
"No other intervention would provide more benefits across the health and
environmental sectors than providing global access to family planning
services," says Dr. Myers.
According to State of the World Population 2009, the poor are especially
vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5
billion people living on $1 a day or less are women. The poor are more
likely to depend on agriculture for a living and therefore risk going
hungry or losing their livelihoods when droughts strike, rains become
unpredictable and hurricanes move with unprecedented force. The poor
also tend to live in marginal areas that are vulnerable to floods,
rising seas, and storms. Research cited in the report shows that women
are more likely than men to die in natural disasters-including those
related to extreme weather-with this gap most pronounced where incomes
are low and status differences between men and women are high.
"We can't successfully confront climate change if we neglect the needs,
challenges, and potential of half the people on this planet," said UNFPA
Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid in a UNFPA release announcing the
State of the World Population report. "If we are really serious about
halting climate change, then we must get serious about eliminating
inequalities between the sexes and empowering women to persevere in our
For more information or to download State of the World Population 2009,
please visit http://www.unfpa.org/swp/