Is Climate Change Man Made?

Is Climate Change Man Made?

The second blog in the series on Gendered Mobility and Climate Action discusses the methodology and approach we used to conduct the research.

This blog is a part of the research project undertaken under the C40 Women For Climate mentorship program, Mumbai in collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra. The Mentee, Vidisha Dhar, is supported by Lubaina Rangwala (WRI), urbz collective and Anamika Sarker, a student of built environment at the Jindal School of Art and Architecture. 


Image 1 A representation of the everyday women's compartment in the local train by Vidisha Dhar
Image 1 A representation of the everyday women's compartment in the local train by Vidisha Dhar

The existing literature examines variations in travel behaviours by employing two main categories of disaggregation i.e., income and gender. These studies have shown that women and those belonging to lower income groups are comparatively less mobile and that there are differences in travel patterns of the two gender groups belonging to the same income group.1 While these disparities reflect the relative economic strength and social standing of various groups, given the prevalence of climatic injustices, it is also crucial to take a closer look at the variations in CO2 emissions resulting from these varying patterns. 


In a report released in 2007 by the Greenpeace India Society,2 the significance of Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration of "Common but Differentiated Responsibilities" was reiterated, not just practised on a global scale but also within India. The principle emphasises the need for advanced nations to reduce their CO2 emissions to prevent climate change and allow the developing world to catch up. Similarly, India's upper and middle classes must control their CO2 emissions to lessen their impact on global warming and ensure that millions of underprivileged people have access to development. In India, CO2 emission levels were measured by recording direct energy consumption from household appliances and transportation among different income classes. The assessment revealed that the richest consumer classes produced 4.5 times more CO2 than the poorest and almost three times more than the average Indian. Within lifestyle choices made by the individuals, it was found that with rising income, the increase in CO2 emissions from personal transport was very pronounced. In contrast to the total growth of 4.5 times, the rise in CO2 from the lowest to the highest income class is raised by a factor of 7.1. This increase was boiled to three factors- a gradual increase in the use of two-wheelers, the use of personal cars, and an increase in air travel with rising incomes. Thus, about 1 percent of the population hides their carbon footprint behind the remaining 823 million people. 

Image 2   Emissions from sub-sectors (Source: BMC & Service providers) Analysis by WRI India
Image 2 Emissions from sub-sectors (Source: BMC & Service providers) Analysis by WRI India

Within the field and studies of sustainability, differences in values linked to travel are consistently found between men and women. The disparity in environmental impacts between men and women has been well-documented in various sectors. Sweden found that the most significant difference in environmental impact was from men’s spending on goods which caused 16 per cent more climate-heating emissions than women. The most significant contributor to this was the spending on petrol and diesel for their cars.3 This finding was corroborated by a study from the Indian Institute of Science, which found that in Bangalore, men contributed more to emissions due to a higher number of car trips. At the same time, their mitigation contribution was lesser compared to their female counterparts.4 Another study in Sweden reported that if everyone in the country travelled like women and “if female norms were considered in an equal way in decisions that influence the transport system,” the emissions from passenger transport would decrease by 29 per cent.5 In India, while there are a host of economic, social, and cultural reasons which contribute to reduced access to mobility for women, the environmental effects of it are not negligible. There is a growing agreement on a need to account for women’s specific needs in the planning and provision of transport systems in our cities. CO2 emissions can be reduced only with the help of targeted mitigation efforts, which consider all of these existing inequalities. 


This exploratory research will be conducted in two phases. The first phase will be focused on testing a hypothesis that women commuters in Mumbai emit less CO2 as a result of the travel choices that they make or are compelled to make because of limited resources. We then contend that if women in Mumbai really do have lesser carbon emissions, how can we motivate the city to make similar travel decisions? After the confirmation of our claim in phase 1, the second stage of our research will look into the infrastructure's shortcomings to improve the commuters' current experiences and encourage others to switch to public transportation. 


For the first phase, we collect data that records the travel choices of the participants through a trip journal. This journal addresses questions focussed on the mode of travel, the number of hours in commute, and distance covered, and some questions addressing the energy and experience. This journal includes questions about the mode of transportation, commute time, and distance travelled, energy, and experience. This trip journal will be provided to 30 households across two neighbourhoods, where each household comprises one man and one woman, ranging in age from 18-45, and both commuting outside of their homes for work and other purposes on a regular basis.These neighbourhoods are selected based on their unique socio-economic context, with access to the neighbouring local train stations within 30 minutes of pedestrian access and ease of access to the author. This allows us to have four distinct groups of participants in the study- men belonging to an economically more affluent background, women belonging to an economically more prosperous background, men belonging to an economically poor background and women belonging to an economically more impoverished background.  


The methodology proposed by us- of disaggregating the collected data into income-gender groups is similar to that adopted by Jain and Tiwari to measure the variation in travel choices in Vishakhapatnam.6 These three disaggregation tiers will help study the variation of carbon emissions caused by travel behaviour across gender and income independently, between incomes of the same gender group and finally, between gender groups of the same income group.We hope this will aid in highlighting the difference that not only exists in the carbon emissions between economically richer and poorer classes and between gender groups but also between the different genders belonging to the same economic category in their everyday commute patterns.