Climate and Gender

December 3, 2008

December 3rd – Let me catch up on impressions of the last 2 days that have not made their way to print yet.  On Monday afternoon I went to a side event on gender and climate.  One is tempted to think naively that both genders are affected equally in the grand scheme of climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Here was a panel of 4 presenters, and a moderator, clarifying that this was not the case.  Let me just highlight the briefest recollections from some 90 minutes of presentations.

First of all, in our male dominated global society, one can tease out the data comparing the carbon footprints of women over men on a country-by-country basis.  The data for Sweden appeared to reveal perhaps a 15% greater carbon footprint for men.  The suggestion was also made that the dominance of men in the process of the design and evolution of our cities has lead to less efficient paradigms on many things, including transport, due to the particular concerns and preoccupations of men.

One speaker pointed out that the attempt to reintroduce nuclear energy into the mix as a response to climate change puts a greater burden on women since the inevitable dissipation of ionizing radiation into the environment, no matter how dilute, will tend to concentrate in the bodies of women and children, and be passed by women to their unborn children in breast mild.

On this point I had to introduce a bit of controversy myself when time came for Q&A.  I had just the night before finally cracked an open letter from Dr. James Hansen to President-elect Barack Obama, and had experienced somewhat of a shock in his qualified support for two new nuclear technologies that he insisted must not be locked out of the possible solution to our collective problem.  I have been a staunch nuclear opponent for years.  But when James Hansen, the granddaddy of climate change scientists, insists that the new president consider nuclear solutions, I am forced to re-open my mind and evaluate my position.

I made this point to the panel.  The speaker who’s talk covered nuclear energy had not seen the Hansen paper yet.  A quick query with the great Google and she quickly had it up on her laptop (there is free wireless Internet service throughout the venue) and was after a few moments of reading (the reference in Hansen’s paper is brief… about a half page to a page) she felt able to comment.  She expressed, as I had, that when James Hansen says something, that one must at least take open-minded notice, since his credentials are flawless in the area of concern for the climate of Earth.

So let me offer you the link to Dr. Hansen’s paper, and let you decide for yourself. Note that the paper itself is downloaded in PDF form via a link on the first line of text of this World-Changing website referred to in this link

For the Earth – §