Want to curb climate change? Empower women

I was not planning to like Moment of Lift (here) by Melinda Gates. Although I was tempted to read it, I always bailed out at the last minute because somehow I thought it would be some kind of 101 Wishful Thinking for Women. When the World Economic Forum Book Club (link) chose it as a May read, I thought it may be a signal. It was.

Billions of dollars separate Melinda and I. The color of our skin, a tech background, and two strong beliefs unite us:

  • We both were raised Catholic and we both struggled to understand the recalcitrant opposition of the Church to respect and support women’s reproductive rights.
  • The belief that advancing gender equality is akin to quantum leaps rather than incremental change.

The book is not Melinda’s autobiography. Milestones and Aha! moments in her life are used as conducting thread to weave hard data with champions stories that highlight key factors to women’s progress. More specifically, Melinda highlights family planning as the single most important aspect for advancing women and humanity.

I knew family planning was important to women empowerment, but as a woman that always had access to contraception, I was not aware of its full impact at a global scale. Serendipitously, I recently landed on a quiz to test my knowledge on solutions to fight climate change based on Project Drawdown (for access to the quiz click here).

Project Drawdown ( https://www.drawdown.org/) is a worldwide cross-functional non-profit organization whose mission is to “map, measure, model, and communicate” about practical solutions to global warming. They compared more than 100 solutions based on current availability, scaling, economic viability, potential to reduce greenhouse gases, negative secondary effects, and feasibility to simulate their impact globally for 2020-2050.

Their research found that jointly educating girls and enabling family planning are the most powerful solutions to reduce CO2 emissions. In other words, the modeling predicts that empowering women could prevent 102.96 billion tons of emissions over the next 30 years. The equivalent of 722 million cars!

Table ranking the most effective solutions based on Project Drawdown research (see full list here).
Rank Solution Estimated reduced CO2 (billions of tons) 2020-2050
1 Refrigerant Management 89.74
2 Wind Turbines (Onshore) 84.6
3 Reduced Food Waste 70.53
4 Plant-Rich Diet 66.11
5 Tropical Forests 61.23
6 Educating Girls 51.48
7 Family Planning 51.48
8 Solar Farms 36.9
9 Silvopasture 31.19
10 Rooftop Solar 24.6

The authors of the study compare the UN High and Medium Population projections. The first one projects unchangeable trends on family planning and girls education. The second assumes tackling both issues aggressively. As the table below shows, an increase in the population translates on an increment in food, electricity, transport, construction, materials, and land requirements, which in turn impacts CO2 production.

Effect of population change on reduction of generated emissions by different sectors (details here).
Sectors impacted by population change Estimated reduced CO2 (billions of tons) 2020-2050
Electricity Generation 20.98
Buildings 37.79
Transportation 21.29
Materials 5.74
Food System 17.17
Total 102.96

The side effect of empowering women through education and give them control over their reproductive rights is the key to climate change.

What is stopping us from making gender equality our universal priority? 

#MomentofLift #EmpowerWomen #globalwarming  #climatesolutions

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