Why climate change, weather are impacting women differently than men

“The climate crisis is far from gender neutral. Women and men are affected differently by weather and climate, and therefore need gender-sensitive information and services, “ said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo last week.

Weather and climate forecasts, data availability and early-warning messaging need to become gender- and socioeconomically-targeted so no one is left behind, said the World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General at the International Gender Champions conference.

"The climate crisis is far from gender-neutral. Women and men are affected differently by weather and climate, and therefore need gender-sensitive information and services," said Celeste Saulo, the first woman to hold the post during last week's conference.

Women and the poor bear a larger burden

"Women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change and weather-related disasters," she added. "In addition, we know that they have less access to climate information, early warnings, agricultural advisory services, mobile phone technology and financial credit." 

She pointed to a 1991 cyclone that hit Central Asia. About 90% of the 138,000 killed were women and children; 71% were women between the ages of 20 and 44, while only 15% were men. 


"This is clear evidence of how climate change is related to inequality and vulnerabilities," Saulo said while giving more examples.

  • Many more women were killed in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami because women were less likely to know how to swim. She also said that their traditional long clothing hampered movement.
  • Cyclone Gorky in Bangladesh: female casualties outnumbered men by 14:1. She partially blamed insufficient access to early warnings and storm information.
  • Female farmers in Senegal must plant their crops a month later than male farmers. Because of this, women also need forecasts for rainfall deficits and an early end to the rainy season, in addition to the widely publicized length of the rainy season and the seasonal onset of rain, essential to the early-planting male farmers.


Men and women need gender-tailored weather and climate messages and data, she continued.

"For example, men tend to be heavily involved in emergency relief efforts and post-disaster rebuilding," said Saulo. "Women are very effective at mobilizing communities in the event of disasters.  They are at the front line in moving forward with recovery. Women further hold key knowledge in natural resources management and are key actors in climate adaptation and mitigation."

The world is making strides in gender equality 

The world is making strides in gender equality. But at the same time, officials need to address the differences in the weather and climate information needs of men and women.

The WMO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, instituted the Gender Action Plan in 2015 in response.


"The World Meteorological Congress in 2023 updated that policy. We are committed to the goal of ‘achieving gender equality and building resilience through the provision of gender-sensitive weather, hydrological and climate services which respond to the specific needs and socioeconomic circumstances of women and men,’" she said.

The group set a target, not a quota, of 40% minimum participation by women in leadership and team roles, she noted.

"There is huge untapped potential to harness the role of women as climate leaders and advocates for climate resilience and sustainable development," she said.

Fiji, a WMO member and a Pacific Small Island Developing State designate, has taken steps to address gender-based issues in recovery after storms and storm vulnerability. The island in the "tropical cyclone belt," according to Saulo, is under increasing risk of devastating cyclones and floods. The U.N. identified 14 such developing islands because their 2.3 million residents are at the highest level of disaster and climate risk, per the WMO. 

"As you all know, I am the first woman to head the WMO, so I am acutely aware of the strides we have made in promoting gender equality, yet acknowledge the considerable work that lies ahead," she said.  

"Being Argentinean affords me a unique perspective on the challenges faced by female scientists in developing countries, where opportunities remain constrained," Saulo continued. "I firmly believe that with unwavering dedication and passion, success knows no bounds, and I am committed to serving as a beacon of inspiration for women, especially the younger generations."