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From aggravating extreme weather events to enabling the spread of disease, global warming is already having a major impact on human health. Research shows that these health consequences are not being felt equally. The fact is, the more disadvantaged you are, the worse the effects are likely to be. Gender, for instance, is just one of numerous factors that affects a person’s standing in society. According to a report commissioned by the Global Gender and Climate Alliance, augmented by new data from Carbon Brief, almost 70 percent of studies find that women are more affected than men by climate-related problems.
These problems include death and injury from extreme heat or storms; infectious diseases; food concerns; reproductive health, mental illness, and violence from a partner following extreme weather. Of 130 studies into climate change and health, 89 (68 percent) found women suffered more than men, 30 (23 percent) found men were more affected than women, and 11 (8.5 percent) found no difference. Researchers say that the imbalance is caused by the differing roles women and men play in society rather than any physiological differences. In other words, the climate crisis is exacerbating existing inequalities, rather than creating new ones.
Indoor air pollution has similar effects. Poor families in the developing world can’t afford cleaner fuels and so burn wood or coal. Because women (and children) spend more time around the hearth, they suffer disproportionately from the inhalation of particulates (PM2.5), black carbon and other pollutants.
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The terms climate change and global warming are both commonly used to describe the gradual increase in Earth’s temperature, which is caused by gases released during the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas. These gases boost the natural greenhouse effect by trapping heat escaping from the planet’s surface, thus making the planet warmer. For more about global warming, see: Climate Change for Students.
These are emissions of carbon-rich gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), from fossil fuel usage in industry, livestock, agricultural processes, wetlands and forest fires. These gases are called ‘greenhouse gases’ because they boost the natural greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. Some scientists think only a large carbon tax can reduce these emissions.
Rising temperatures melt ice in the Arctic and Antarctic leading to a rise in sea levels. They cause droughts and water shortages, provide ideal conditions for the spread of wildfires as well as malaria and other diseases. Global warming also threatens fish stocks by depleting the oceans of oxygen and killing corals, and leads to a damaging loss of biodiversity.
Let’s be clear about this. Those who reject mainstream climate science or dispute the world is warming from man-made forces – whether they call themselves climate change doubters, contrarians, skeptics or deniers – are perfectly entitled to hold their belief. Just as we are entitled to rely on scientific facts. After all, we don’t lock up members of the Flat Earth Society, just because they reject mainstream scientific opinion that the world is round.
The only way to stop global warming is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. Nothing else will do. Climate activist groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, want us to stop using all fossil fuels by 2025, but this is easier said than done. Besides, the facts show that renewables like solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal and biomass energy – while growing in popularity – are not yet able to replace fossil fuels, especially in transport and heating. Much more time is needed to implement the necessary switch. For more on this, please see: Our Climate Plan Can’t Cope.
Learn the facts about climate change, discuss them with your friends, write to your public representative. But also try to lead a greener life. Our over-consumption of energy and our energy wastage is part of the problem. If you want to see how green you really are, check out our Carbon Footprint Calculator. It’s a great tool to find out how green your lifestyle is, and what improvements can be made.