American Women are More concerned than men about the consequences of climate change, even though they are less knowledgeable about what causes it, according to an analysis released Tuesday.
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which performed the analysis, said the results reflect a “small – but consistent – gender gap” between women and men on the topic of climate change, one exposed in studies and which has remained largely steady in recent years.
The reasons for the gender gaps in concern and knowledge about climate change aren’t clear, but scientists have put forward several theories, from “differences in gender socialization and resulting value systems (e.g., altruism, compassion),” to “feminist beliefs including commitment to egalitarian values of fairness and social justice,” the analysis says.
“We have observed lower levels of knowledge about the causes of climate change among women. We don’t know why that is, but there are a few working hypotheses – some related to cultural factors (as with women’s underrepresentation in STEM fields) and some related to media consumption (where gender differences have also been observed),” Jon Ozaksut, the Yale program’s digital director, says in an email.
He adds, “women do have higher risk perceptions around climate change – so it’s worth noting that though we’ve observed women have less knowledge of the causes of climate change, one could argue they have a greater understanding of its impact.”
Notably, more women than men support efforts to address climate change, such as by limiting emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, and women are generally more likely to be concerned about the environment and climate at large.
One reason may be that women are more likely than men to feel the effects of climate change: Women make up more than 80 percent of people displaced by climate change, according to United Nations data, and air pollution is a top threat to the health of pregnant women and their children. Women also typically hold less socioeconomic power than men, making them more vulnerable to such environmental disasters as floods, droughts, hurricanes and wildfires.
“Out of 100 substantive climate solutions identified through rigorous empirical modeling, improving the education of women and girls represents one of the top solutions (#6) to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming – similar in ranking to restoring tropical forests and ranking above increased solar energy generation,” the analysis said. “Across 130 countries, women in government positions were more likely to sign on to international treaties to reduce global warming than men.”
Global Energy Emissions on the Rise
Perhaps counterintuitively, though, while women express greater concern about climate change, they are less likely than men to acknowledge that most scientists agree that climate change is occurring, and women are generally less versed in the science of climate change. However, the analysis says that such results may suggest that women are generally more open to new information and education.
“Taken together, these results suggest that women in the U.S. are less likely than men to know certain scientific facts about global warming and tend to be less certain of what they know, even though they have a more accurate understanding of the risks and threats from global warming,” the analysis says. “This might suggest that, compared with men, women will be more open to fact-based public education initiatives because they might be less threatened by the facts (as long as the information is consistent with their risk assessments).”