The astonishing climate effect of empowering girls and women

3 min readJul 3, 2020


Plant-based food, wind turbines and electric cars are often in focus during discussions on climate solutions. So maybe it’s time to highlight an even more important factor: Health and education.

”We will not solve the climate crisis unless women and girls world-wide are empowered and have equal rights and opportunities”, says Crystal Chissell, vice president of operations and engagement at Project Drawdown.

Crystal Chissell poweful keynote during Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, April 22 2020.

April 22 marked the 50 years anniversary of Earth Day. To celebrate this event the social network We Don’t Have Time teamed up with Earth Day Network to host a record-breaking six-day climate broadcast called Earth Day Week.

The main theme for the three hour birthday broadcast was ”Big ideas and education”, which made American Crystal Chissell at the non-profit organization Project Drawdown well suited for delivering the key-note speech.

Drawdown, in this context, is the point where levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to decline. To get to that point, research has shown that health and education is the second most impactful solution, after reducing food waste.

Project Drawdown has divided this solution into two areas. The first is Reproductive health care and family planning. The second is Educating girls.

”Each of these solutions is relevant to reaching drawdown, because each has an effect on population growth. And population growth is a key driver of the demand for and consumption of food, transportation, electricity, building space and goods, each of which has associated emissions that drive climate change”, Crystal Chissell said during her online presentation from San Francisco.

Family planning is of course much more than just a climate issue. It is about preventing deaths of women and children and allowing women to pursue economic opportunities and providing opportunities for education.

Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization based in Washington DC, has calculated that the difference between a woman with no years of schooling and twelve years of schooling is four to five children.

”Educating girls also enables enormous benefits to humanity. It prepares them to be resilient in the aftermath of climate related disasters. It prepares girls to be leaders in climate action, and very importantly, it would tap innovation that would otherwise be left unrealized”, Crystal Chissell said.

But how can the climate impact of family planning and the education of girls be quantified? The method used by Project Drawdown is to project how much energy, building space, food, waste and transportation will be consumed by humans in a world where there is no increased investment in family planning versus a world where there is increased adoption of family planning. The difference between the two is estimated to be around one billion people.

”In a scenario where there is investment in family planning and we limit population growth to the UN median population projection, our analyses shows that we can avoid up to 85 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases between now and 2050”, says Crystal Chissell.

She also says that solving problems concerning human health and wellbeing is the key for getting more people involved in climate action, since those problems are far more visible than what’s going on up in the sky.

”Climate action must solve for more problems than atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Solving for human rights, health, wellbeing and prosperity for all worldwide is both necessary and the most effective path forward.”

Written by Markus Lutteman

About Crystal Chissell and Project Drawdown

Connect to and read more about Crystal and Project Drawdown on Medium Project Drawdown Admin, on their other social media outlets and and read more at Follow @CrystalChissell and Project Drawdown @ProjectDrawdown on Twitter.

Crystal Chissell

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