Climate change and disability

Changes in weather patterns and natural resources, for example through increased exposure to severe weather conditions such as floods and droughts, can severely affect human well-being, development and security. This directly impacts on-going development and poverty reduction initiatives, and can increase the risk of disease and poor-health, inadequate drinking water and food scarcity, loss of livelihoods, migration, violence and conflict. Occupations dependent upon natural resources and weather patterns are often most impacted by climate change and forced migration.

In terms of linkages between climate change and disability, we can identify two main issues. Firstly, due to existing social inequities and exclusion, people with disabilities are often left in highly vulnerable situations when climate change adversely affects a population. Secondly, climate change is also likely to cause an increase in the incidence and prevalence of serious health conditions leading to lasting impairments.

In order to minimize the adverse effects of climate change, it is important that people with disabilities and their families are included in climate change initiatives focusing upon basic needs, livelihoods, healthcare, social participation and disaster preparedness and mitigation. It is essential that disaster risk management programmes are participatory and that distribution sources are accessible. Inclusive livelihoods initiatives and alternative trainings in the event of forced migration are crucial. This is supported by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in particular article 11.

This key list highlights background information and resources about disability-inclusive climate change initiatives. We welcome your suggestions: please send comments or suggested additions to

Selected resources

Child centred disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation : roles of gender and culture in Indonesia

HAYNES, Katharine
LASSA, Jonatan
TOWERS, Briony
September 2010

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"The principle aim of this research was to investigate the roles of gender and religion in child-centred disaster risk reduction (DRR). Moreover, and through participatory research, informal conversations and direct advocacy, the project team hoped to build knowledge and awareness of child-centred DRR. The research was also designed to validate findings from previous research by the wider project team and to provide a body of empirical evidence in support of child-centred DRR and the Children in a Changing Climate programme"
Working Paper No 2

Climate change : impacts, vulnerabilities and adaption in developing countries


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This book highlights the concerns and needs of developing countries in adapting to the effects of climate change. It outlines the impact of climate change in four developing country regions: Africa, Asia, Latin America and small island developing States; the vulnerability of these regions to future climate change; current adaptation plans, strategies and actions; and future adaptation options and needs

Climate knowledge for action : a global framework for climate services|Empowering the most vulnerable


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"Climate is a critical factor in the lives and livelihoods of all people and in development as a whole. This report proposes how a global system for the provision of climate services can be set up over the next few years that will save lives and protect the jobs and homes of vulnerable people. On the basis of its work and wide consultations, the High-Level Taskforce believes that the widespread, global use of improved climate services, provided through the Global Framework for Climate Services will provide substantial social and economic benefits. The Framework presents an important, cost effective opportunity to improve well-being in all countries through contributions to development, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. A global mobilisation of effort and an unprecedented collaboration among institutions across political, functional, and disciplinary boundaries is required and the Taskforce believes that the Global Framework for Climate Services can foster and guide this effort"

Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and optional protocol

December 2006

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The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledges their rights to education, health, work and more. It provides a platform for action and activitism on inclusion and equity in countries which ratify and strive to implement it

Gender and climate change : three things you should know


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Through gender analysis, this report presents ways to mitigate possible risks that may exacerbate gender inequality, and highlights opportunities to enhance positive outcomes in the context of climate change. It features three key implications: women are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and climate change where their rights and socio-economic status are not equal to those of men; empowerment of women is an important ingredient in building climate resilience; low-emissions development pathways can be more effective and more equitable where they are designed using a gender-informed approach. This report is useful to anyone interested in gender and climate change

Gender perspectives : integrating disaster risk reduction into climate change adaptation|Good practices and lessons learned


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"This publication demonstrates the link between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, while contributing to the ongoing global effort to promote gender equality in socio-economic development...The first section emphasizes women’s knowledge and capacity as environmental and natural resource managers. It also highlights the importance of land use and management, and alternative livelihood options in the context of climate change. The second section highlights women’s participation in community decision making processes, showing the importance of building women’s and girls’ capacity in disaster risk reduction, and demonstrating their potential for leadership. The third section briefly showcases some specific tools used to mainstream gender into planning and policy development, to assess vulnerability, and to design adaptive strategies. For ease of reference, each good practice is presented in the same format beginning with a short abstract"

Humanitarian implications of climate change mapping emerging trends and risk hotspots

EHRHART, Charles
et al
November 2009

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"This study identifies the most likely humanitarian implications of climate change for the next 20-30 year period. The authors use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to map specific hazards associated with climate change, specifically: floods, cyclones and droughts, and place them in relation to factors influencing vulnerability. The results identify hotspots of high humanitarian risk under changing climatic conditions"

Promoting social inclusion in adaptation to climate change : discussion paper

February 2010

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"This paper is a scoping study on the numbers and location of people who may have particular adaptation difficulties, the resources which are presently in place to respond to this identified need and the additional resources needed to prevent growth in the numbers of people in the region who will have difficulties adapting to climate change. The paper considers ways of addressing adaptation needs, particularly how local communities can be assisted to provide social capital and resources to improve their resilience"
Monash Sustainability Institute Report 09/4

Realising the future we want for all : report to the secretary-general

June 2012

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"The report begins by reflecting on the experience of the UN system in supporting the implementation of the MDG framework. Building on the lessons learned, the report provides an assessment of the key development challenges to which the global development agenda should respond. It proposes a vision of people-centred, inclusive and sustainable development and initial ideas for possible contours of a post-2015 UN development agenda. It concludes by laying out a possible road map for the process of defining the agenda, including ways of bringing different voices of people around the world into the consultations"

Shortcut to the frontline : supporting local NGOs on climate change in Bangladesh an INTRAC/PRIP Trust research report

et al
January 2010

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"This research project aims to understand the role of local (non-centralised Bangladeshi) NGOs in climate change work: their current situation, outlook and future prospects. It is a snapshot of how different NGOs in south-western Bangladesh approach the issue: small and large ones; ones that are well-connected internationally and those who are well-rooted in their ‘base’ communities; ones that deliver services to the stricken and those who fight for systemic changes. South-western Bangladesh is a region that is already under threat from climate change-resembling dangers such as cyclones and flooding, and much NGO activity is concentrated there"
Occasional Papers Series No 50

Sphere guidelines : humanitarian charter and minimum standards in humanitarian response|3rd Ed


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This handbook establishes shared principles and a set of universal minimum standards in core areas of humanitarian response. It provides a new chapter on protection principles, which considers the protection and safety of populations affected by disaster or armed conflict as an integral part of humanitarian response. It describes core standards for effective and accountable humanitarian response and advocacy, and outlines the minimum standards in the following four technical chapters: water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion; food security and nutrition; shelter, settlement and non-food items; and health action. Each minimum standard highlights key actions, key indicators and guidance notes
This edition also addresses emerging issues, such as climate change, disaster risk reduction, early recovery of services and livelihoods, cash transfers, and civil-military relations. Understanding and supporting local responses to disaster is a priority reflected in the whole handbook, as is reinforcing the capacity of local actors
This handbook is useful to all working in humanitarian response

Where disability meets climate change

December 2009

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This article highlights how climate change will affect disabled people. It presents the importance of ensuring that disability is on the agenda in global environmental discussions and raises the importance of including disability in policy through consultation with disabled people

Witness to climate change : learning from older people’s experience

BEALES, Sylvia

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"This paper looks at older people’s experience of climate change, their awareness of it and how it makes them vulnerable. It highlights older people’s exclusion from climate change debates, identifies opportunities for influencing policy-making at the national level and makes recommendations for including older people’s perspectives in discussions and adaptation strategies"

A culture of neglect : climate discourse and disabled people


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"The purpose of this paper is to expose the reader to (a) how disabled people are situated in the culture of the climate, adaptation, mitigation and resilience discourse; (b) how one would answer the three questions, (i) adaptation to what, (ii) who or what adapts, and (iii) how does adaptation occur (Smit et al), using a disabled people lens; and (c) what that reality of the involvement of disabled people within the climate change discourse might herald for other groups in the future. The paper contends that there is a pressing need for the climate discourse to be more inclusive and to develop a new social contract to modify existing dynamics of ableism and disablism so as to avoid the uneven distribution of evident burdens already linked to climate change"
M/C Journal, Vol 12, No 4

Disability, displacement and public health : a vision for Haiti


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This article "highlights the situation of people with disabilities displaced by natural disasters, with a particular focus on Haiti which on January 12, 2010 was hit by a catastrophic earthquake of magnitude seven on the Richter scale. The article explores the opportunity for developing a series of best practices with regards to displaced people with disabilities in Haiti - practices that might be applicable to other natural disasters in the future"
Canadian Journal of Public Health, Vol 102, No 2

United Nations framework convention on climate change


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This website features negotiations, processes and key documents related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Updated conference and meeting information and news links are provided. Seperate tabs are given for specific details related to Clean Development Mechanism, Joint Implementation, Cimate Change Information Network, and Technology Transfer Clearing House