By UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Ambassador Melanne Verveer

Climate change is a security threat and a vulnerability multiplier. It affects human security, food security, water security, energy security—and women’s security.

The security threat starts in places like the Sahel. South of the Sahara desert, the Sahel is hot and arid. Many locals are subsistence farmers who rely on the land for their livelihood. Climate change makes it harder for them to grow reliable crops, to find enough water, to find work and to raise a family.

A heat wave, or drought, or the rainy season coming too late pulls more families into poverty traps. The poverty trap is a downward spiral, often starting with crop failure and food and income shortfalls. Children are pulled out of school to help provide for their families. If food becomes scarce, women are often the first to sacrifice their meals so that others in the family get enough nourishment.

Sometimes, men and boys migrate away in search of food and jobs so they can find ways to support their families. At home, women shoulder the triple responsibility of caring for the elderly, supporting their children, and tending gardens and farms, all the while hoping and waiting for food, rain and relief.

The climate crisis in the Sahel ripples outward and can be felt continents away. Often those searching for food and jobs go to the nearest city and then to the next country. Some manage the perilous trip across the Sahara, even crossing the Mediterranean bound for Europe. The newspapers in Europe report hundreds of people arriving daily. If we could ask…