Let us be honest — Climate Change is Scary.
This means we have to start preparing as much, and as soon, as possible. We have a choice to make. We can become resigned to the scary reality, we can ignore it entirely and get caught off-guard when it is too late, or we can prepare for the future.
The Sustainable Development Agenda is holistic, based on the principle that real progress towards one of the 17 goals depends upon progress in the others.
We must work together as societies and as an international community to save lives, ease suffering, and lessen the shattering economic and social unrest due to urgent global emergencies in 2021 such as climate change.
People with disabilities make up an estimated 15 percent of the global population. Due to discrimination, marginalization, and certain social and economic factors, people with disabilities may experience the effects of climate change differently and more intensely than others.
As climate change and other environmental issues become an ever-more-present fact of our daily lives; these communities are disproportionately feeling the impacts.
As the world continues to change, people with disabilities will be affected in dramatic and unique ways due to disasters, which are worsening and increasing because of climate change.
This article will discuss the connection between climate change and disability, understanding the intersection of climate change and how it will affect people with disabilities, how it connects to the disability rights movement, what we can do moving forward.
The community of people with disabilities is uniquely affected by the devastation brought on by climate change. This population is increasingly appearing on lists of “vulnerable” among many other groups in the social justice framework.
The effects of climate change exacerbate inequality and risk for people with disabilities, it is critical this group be included in climate action. Through Ruh Global IMPACT we call on states, international organisations, private companies, and all citizens to have a role to play in limiting this phenomenon to ensure a sustainable future for our planet, as well as, to uphold the rights of people with disabilities when developing climate policies and to secure their meaningful, informed, and effective participation during the process with ensuring that information about climate risks, plans, and policies are made accessible to everyone.
Due to the increasingly alarming problem of climate change, it is our prerogative to ensure that people with disabilities are included in solutions.
By including people with disabilities in the environmental justice movement, we can protect our planet and the well-being of a very large and important population worldwide.
According to the UN Environment Programme disabled people will be disproportionately disadvantaged by climate change.
Firstly, people with disabilities will have limited access to resources, services, and knowledge about effectively responding to environmental change. Secondly, people with disabilities often have compromised health, which makes them more vulnerable to extremes in climate, ecosystem losses, and infectious diseases. Thirdly, people with disabilities are more likely to struggle with evacuations or enforced migrations.
According to the United Nations, Human Rights of persons with disabilities report, they are at increased risk of the adverse impacts of climate change – including threats to their health, food security, water, sanitation, and livelihoods.
People with disabilities also experience poverty at more than twice the rate of people without disabilities. This puts them at heightened risk, as the world’s poorest people continue to experience the most severe impacts of climate change through lost income, displacement, hunger, and adverse impacts on health.
They are two to four times more likely to be injured or die in a disaster. This is due to failures in government and community planning, inclusion and meeting accessibility and accommodation obligations. True resilience is only achievable with a full commitment to equal access, universal design, and whole community inclusion.
Public policy in several countries and United Nation’s documents have begun to include the voices of persons with disabilities among the planning constituencies. Yet the needs of this constituency are poorly understood regarding which measures could realistically enable survival in environmentally compromised circumstances and often are omitted from relevant policy making.
Policies like these—when they do not adequately include consultation with affected groups or reflect their needs during implementation—can make already vulnerable populations even more vulnerable. In the worst cases, these campaigns can even pit people with vulnerabilities against environmental progress.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
The intersection of disability rights and the environment is an increasingly more recognized field at the global level.
Persons with disabilities can play a vital role in dealing with the most pressing environmental issues in our world to achieve global environmental justice, rooted in cultural integrity, under the leadership of societies and grassroots movements.
People with disabilities have important roles to play in proposing creative and relevant solutions to improve their communities and protect our shared planet.
People with disabilities need to be a full part of finding solutions to unequal access to natural resources and the right to a healthy environment.
True environmental justice needs to provide the resources needed to adapt and create equity for all – and transform our systems to do the same. This adaptive climate justice must identify vulnerable groups, determine where their vulnerability lies, and ensure that the international community provides resources and other changes to tackle those needs head-on.
People with disabilities can work to promote environmental justice and plan for this by encouraging consultation to identify the needs and strengths of people with disabilities in local communities in relation to their environmental health, resource-based livelihood needs, access to resources, and land rights.
Mitigating climate change will certainly help these many oppressed and vulnerable groups and is arguably the most essential first line of defense.
Shifting to an adaptive climate justice mindset will require collaboration, focused planning, effective resources, and wide-scale public education especially for the disability and climate change communities.
At the World Institute on Disability, the “New Earth Disability” project is addressing adaptive climate justice for people with disabilities. The diverse disability population includes those with physical disabilities, sensory disabilities (i.e., low vision or hearing), developmental disabilities, psychological disabilities, chronic health conditions, and more.
Actions that protect the environment do not have to disenfranchise the disability community. In fact, the needs of people with disabilities are not an impediment to good planet care. They are essential to it. When we pursue the inclusion of people with disabilities, caring about nature can come naturally. There are many initiatives that can protect people with disabilities and the planet too, for example, Universal Health Care, Disaster Planning, Corporate Accountability, Universal Design, and Stronger Environmental Regulations.
DISABILITY, AND ECO-ABLEISM
Eco-ableism is tied significantly to the climate change and sustainability movement. Climate change is symbiotically connected to our human world, and that includes all that comes with the human world.
Humankind is confronted with a range of immediate and long-term threats, spanning the ecological, physical, economic, and health dimensions.
The negative impacts of climate change on people with disabilities is rarely talked about but becoming more and more apparent.
The “eco” comes from environmental activists who, through attempting to save the environment, do not take into account those with less privilege than them. It points to a larger issue within the environmentalist movement – we need more diversity in the voices of our leaders and for everyone to listen to those who have felt overlooked or even attacked by environmentalism.
In a United Nations Survey, a high proportion of people with disabilities were found to either be injured or even die during natural disasters. This was due to a lack of consultation with disabled people and governments that lacked the necessary measures to support and protect them. Only 20% of respondents to the survey said that they could evacuate immediately and 6% said that they could not evacuate at all.
During the recent bushfires in Australia, it became apparent that disabled people were the most vulnerable in emergency situations. As people affected by the bushfires were urged to enact their fire plan, the needs of disabled people were not considered. Needs such as accessible evacuation centers, transport for the individual and any essential equipment they need to manage their disabilities and health conditions, the information in formats that they can read and understand, for example, communication tools for deaf and visually impaired people.
Examples of eco-ableism are not always apparent. In fact, eco-ableism is often hidden by the very spectacle of positive sustainable solutions to climate and environmental problems.
According to Forbes, for disabled Americans, the impact of climate change consequences is a daily issue. Take for example the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) planned power outage in October last year that saw people with disabilities and people with complex medical needs struggling to stay alive because they could not access power for their medical equipment.
Read more info about: Climate Change, Disability, and Eco-Ableism: why we need to be inclusive to save the planet.
People with disabilities need to be an active and powerful voice in the environmental-justice movement.
They are a unique resource of knowledge and experience, which is often overlooked, that is essential to help reduce the risk of disasters and build resilient societies and communities. A barrier-free environment helps to ensure full and equal participation in society by all, regardless of age, gender or ability.
People with disabilities have the experience and resilience to help find solutions when planning for disasters and emergencies.