European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality has adopted the resolution "on women and climate change".

The report argues that climate change exacerbates gender discrimination, because women, who make up 50% of the population, are "more affected" by climate change and natural disasters than men


Dutch far-left MEP Kartika Liotard, from the environment committee, believed gender equality would be better for the climate. She said it was ironic women were worst affected by climate change when they have the "least effect" on the climate.

From another source:

Members of the European Parliament will vote today on a report by a French Green party MEP who claims global warming ‘is not gender neutral’.

Women, claims Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, ‘consume more sustainably than men and show greater willingness to act to preserve the environment’ as they tend to organise household consumption and childcare.

She said that discrimination against women could be made worse in the developing world if climate policies do not take gender discrimination into account.

  • Do women 'consume more sustainably than men'?
  • Will having gender quotas in environmental organizations reduce climate change?
  • 7
    Women ... constitute more than half of SUV drivers in the U.S. - so I'm thinking the answer is probably not...
    – John C
    May 9, 2012 at 9:55
  • @John C: The world is not limited to the 50 states. But indeed, the "location" aspect of the question is somewhat vague. May 9, 2012 at 13:09
  • @Piskvor: but greenhouse pollution is mostly driven by these 50 states.
    – vartec
    May 9, 2012 at 13:11
  • [citation-needed]. Also, how directly "driven" you mean? (e.g. the Chinese aren't very green either; is part of that pollution driven by US demand for goods? (I'd guess "probably not as far as the greenhouse gases go; industrial pollution, partially")) Actually, your comment would be a good question here on Skeptics, IMHO. May 9, 2012 at 13:46
  • 3
    Note, that around 80% of consumer buying decisions in developed countries are made by women. Also, considering that fashion is one of the most environmentally destructive industries, I would be skeptical of those claims. It would be complex to break it down rigorously and I doubt anyone has ever done a rigorous enough analysis. It seems very much driven by a certain narrative rather than facts.
    – BKE
    Jan 8, 2019 at 0:46

2 Answers 2



tl;dr: Here is a study that shows it:

Findings show no substantial gender differences in level of activism, but reveal that women engage in significantly higher rates of environmentally friendly behavior

But before, it should be noted that there is a difference between the women who are affected more by climate change and the women who supposedly 'consume more sustainably than men'.

Women are affected by climate change more than men in poor countries, where the traditional societal order is still in place. As said here:

Women are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they are more prone to the adverse impacts from climate change. Their limited adaptive capacities arise from prevailing social inequalities and ascribed social and economic roles that manifest itself in differences in property rights, access to information, lack of employment and inequal access to resources. Further, changes in the climate usually impact on sectors that are traditionally associated with women, such as paddy cultivation, cotton and tea plantations, and fishing. This means increased hardship for women.

Or as described here, by the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner:

"Many destructive activities against the environment disproportionately affect women, because most women in the world, and especially in the developing world, are very dependent on primary natural resources: land, forests, waters," said Wangari Maathai of Kenya.

"Women are very immediately affected, and usually women and children can't run away," said Maathai, who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on sustainable development.

But, in those places, the household is not ruled by women, especial economic aspects of it, such as what work to do, what crops to grow or how to utilize the small amount of natural resources available. More over, the main impact on man made climate change (if exists) is done by developed countries, such as the U.S. Europe and east Asia (S.Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan). Those are not the places where the described affects on women happen. One source for this is here.


In the societies where women are greater affected by the climate change, they are not heads of households and are affected exactly because of the fact that they have no economical or social power. The societies where women actually have economic and social power are the greatest contributes to climate change. Women head approximately 40% of house hold in the US:

In the CEX in 2008, 53% of married householders were men, down from 85% in 1994. Similarly, in the CPS the share of married male householders fell from 88.6% in 1994 to 61.8% in August 2009. source, pg.7

And in many more households women have a big say at decision making. Those are the places where women can make environmental friendly decisions, while they are not affected by environmental issues differently than their male counterparts.

I've also conducted a small examination of the ratio of female-male among board members in several prominent international environmental organizations. The results are:

Greenpeace: 3 female, 4 male

World Wildlife foundation (WWF), the one with the cute panda simbol:

  • Staff: 3 female, 4 male
  • Board Members: 2 female, 16 male
  • Honorary directors: 3 female, 6 male

total: 7 female and 26 male

Green Cross, founded by Mikhail Gorbachev:

  • Board members: 0 female, 10 male
  • Honorary Board: 5 female, 9 male
  • staff: 5 female, 6 male

total 10 female, 15 male

Plant a tree today (Staff members): 8 female, 13 male

World Resource Institute, Al Gore's organisation: 10 female 24 male

In total women consist 31.67% of examined organisation's staff and board members (25% if only board members and honorary board members are considered), which is higher than the 16.1% on fortune 500 companies boards, and even higher that the European standard, which has to be enforced, unlike those organisations that don't have quotas. This can show that women do have greater concern for environmental issues. Or on the other hand that environmental organisations are more open to accept women in their leadership.

  • 9
    Over all, in your answer only one thing is based on peer-reviewed study -- that women are more likely to engage in eco-activism.
    – vartec
    May 9, 2012 at 11:59
  • 2
    @vartec, every single claim in the answer is sourced, Including trivial claims such as "US contributes more to pollution than Africa". The claims about climate affect on women are taken from a report by the United Nations Development Program in India, and the words of a Kenyan woman who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on sustainable development. The figures for the number of women in Green foundations are from their sites, and the percentage of women in economic companies are from the Harvard business review and an organisation promoting women in business, what more can you want?
    – SIMEL
    May 9, 2012 at 12:48
  • 7
    you're assuming that "environmentally friendly behavior" == "comsuming more sustainably". I don't quite agree with that assumption. As for US contributing more pollution than Africa, I don't see how that is relevant. In fact in Africa women have less rights/influence, so I don't get your point. Are you suggesting, that with Sharia law US will pollute as little as Africa? As for quote from Nobel Peace Prize "winner", it's not a scientific achievement. It's purely political, thus irrelevant.
    – vartec
    May 9, 2012 at 13:08
  • 3
    The logic here seems to beg the question: "Women are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they are more prone to the adverse impacts from climate change." Climate doesn't seem to discriminate based on gender. It mentions limited resources as an effect of climate change, but doesn't support that women will feel limited resources proportionally more than men.
    – user11643
    Jan 5, 2019 at 22:44
  • 3
    If for example women are responsible for consuming 30% of some resource, the sources do not support that they receive a lesser percentage if that resource becomes limited as a result of climate change, nor can that be assumed. The sources further assume that anything less than 50% consumption is inherently an issue of wrongful discrimination. This also cannot be assumed.
    – user11643
    Jan 5, 2019 at 22:44

Not an expert regarding this topic, but all the studies that I found regarding this topic say that yes, women overall consume more sustainably than men. I cannot speak to your second question regarding gender quotas in environmental organizations reducing climate change - that question is much too specific.

This study here conducted in Turkey says that

Women showed a higher level of sustainable consumption behavior both in overall behavior and tendency to reuse products. Taken together, the findings suggest that gender and generation of consumers can differentiate sustainable consumption behavior.

This study conducted with families in Sweden says that (I'm pretty much quoting the abstract in full here because it's quite relevant to the topic)

Women are more likely than men to consume sustainably based on a case study of Swedish families. Sustainable consumption includes activities such as buying green and fair trade products, reducing travel, eating organic foods, and recycling. According to this research, women express more interest in sustainable living and spend more time seeking information on sustainable consumption and sustainable alternatives than men. But women also bare a disproportionate burden for maintaining sustainable lifestyles. While Sweden has consistently ranked high in measures of gender equity, household and family duties remain a female responsibility in most Swedish families. As such, women are often pressed for time, making the pursuit of sustainable consumerism and lifestyles difficult.

And still, they apparently manage to do so to a greater degree than men, according to the study.

The OECD says that

In terms of resource impacts, women tend to leave a smaller ecological footprint than men due to their more sustainable consumption patterns. Sustainable consumption is using resources in a way that minimises harm to the environment while supporting the well-being of people. Men’s lifestyles and consumer patterns, whether they are rich or poor, tend to be more resource-intensive and less sustainable than women’s (Johnsson-Latham, 2006).

The OECD paper mentioned above quotes a larger body of research, e.g.

Surveys show that women tend to be more sustainable consumers. Women are more likely to recycle, buy organic food and eco-labelled products and place a higher value on energy-efficient transport (OECD, 2008a).

Another more specific example from a report by the Swedish government that argues the same point:

Women also use public transport even in household with cars more often than men and travel short distances close to home.

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