Climate change affects the world’s poorest and most ‘at-risk’ people. While data on the impacts of climate change upon people with disabilities is not available, estimates have suggested 20% among those most at-risk to climate change are people with disabilities.
People with disabilities are living with significant climate-related issues such as increasing storms, floods and landslides; coastal inundation; droughts; wildfires; degradation of land, resources, infrastructure and living environments; extremes of temperature; and growing climatic unpredictability and uncertainty. Climate change can also indirectly impact on people’s health, such as poor water and air quality, can cause health-related illnesses including: respiratory diseases, allergies, cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, poisoning, water borne diseases. These climate-related health impacts can lead to long-term impairments and disabilities.
People with disabilities experience multidimensional inequalities and are over-represented amongst the poorest, which heightens their exposure to climate change. A climate-driven hazard may present compounding risks for people with disabilities as they experience the same challenging event as everyone else, as well as the additional challenges of inaccessible and exclusive environments.
People with disabilities living in rural areas with a higher reliance on agriculture face heightened climate risks which are closely interlinked with food insecurity:
- Existing barriers to accessing food, nutrition, and equitable participation in the food production exacerbates food shortages and household incomes, which further perpetuates the linkage between poverty and disability
- The loss of food production increases the cases of malnutrition, and stunted growth, especially among children under 5 years old
- Many community members have been forced to move to ‘low-income settlements’ because their land is no longer productive. But people with disabilities are often left behind by family members during climate-induced displacement. This means they can be left behind in places where there is little clean drinking water.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, signatory governments need to develop climate adaptation plans alongside people with disabilities and their representative organisations (e.g., OPDs). However, people with disabilities have been largely excluded from decision-making processes and outcomes within States’ national climate change policies and plans, as well as under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).