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Climate Change and Violence Against Women


Linking cause and effect

In the ongoing effort to link causes and effects in the EDM world, here's one that doesn't readily come to mind: That climate change increases the threat of violence to women.

There are a couple of analyses of the phenomenon from National Geographic. Evidence that temperature changes and drought lead to violence is examined in Wars, Murders to Rise due to Global Warming? In the summary, they note: "... the results were striking: They found that even relatively minor departures from normal temperatures or rainfall amounts substantially increased the risk of conflict on a variety of levels, ranging from individual aggression, such as murder and rape, to country-level political instability and international wars."

In Climate Change helped spark Syrian War, the case is further made that climate-caused drought was a primary driver of the entire war and subsequent immigration crisis.

Water scarcity in particular can be deadly to women in many regions of the world. How Climate Change is Fueling Violence against Women explains how a crisis doesn't have to be as extreme as war to have devastating impacts to an individual.

And lest you think this is all a non-U.S. issue, think again. The Link between Climate Change and Violence on Women is being felt on our streets, right now, in real time.

Second generation effects

We've discussed the difficulty in linking causes and effects before. Here are some of our efforts:

The chain of causation in this circumstance is admittedly not easy to follow. Here's one try at working it backwards:

  • Wars in the Middle East have created a refugee crisis and left behind regimes in power that are absolutely brutal to women. However, the causation for these problems is masked by economics, religion, and politics.
  • However, if those causes are factored out, then the next-level problem is revealed as being lack of access to water and failures in farming and other ways of supporting families and societies. This destroys the economics; religion becomes a gathering place for the impoverished and angry; and politics & war become the tools that are used to try to exert one group's will over another's.
  • And if those causes are factored out, then you get to the heart of the matter: Desertification, drought, and desperation to survive in a hostile environment. These issues are a direct result of climate change and depletion of non-renewable resources, such as aquifers.

So what to do?

The first step in resolving any crisis is recognizing that there is a crisis at all. We haven't done that well with respect to gun violence, and we haven't done that well with respect to climate change. For both of these issues, the first step is to RECOGNIZE THAT THERE'S A PROBLEM.

The second step is to recognize that the cascading effects -- butterfly effects, chaos theory effects -- DO exist. Finding the root cause of an emergency that you're dealing with will never be as simple as calling someone a bad guy. It's ALWAYS going to be more complicated than that.

And, of course, the final step is to remember that we serve and protect the public -- ALL of the public. This means that in some circumstances, special consideration needs to be given to a portion of the population that has a special need.

In the circumstance of violence against women, that would certainly be one.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.