The voices of people with disabilities are not being heard in the discussions about the climate crisis, even though they are particularly at risk.
At Global Action Plan, we believe that behavioural change is essential in fighting the climate crisis. If we are to stop runaway climate change and protect ourselves from the impact of global climate chaos, we need to make changes at all levels of society, and rethink everything: our cities, our business models, our food and transport systems, and our lifestyles. And we need to work together to make sure no-one gets left behind.
Climate action and climate justice do not naturally coincide, but require deliberate and careful efforts to ensure that actions to prevent and mitigate climate change are truly inclusive. However, a recent study done by Global Action Plan has found that many individuals are left out of the conversation.
Recent efforts have gone to furthering the education and awareness regarding climate change and disability, as disabled people have been found to suffer disproportionately from climate change, while also being left out of the conversation regarding climate action.
Global Action Plan’s recent briefing paper “Climate Change and Disability” presented the findings of an online survey, which was sent out to both working individuals and activists in the climate and/or disability realm, to better understand the community’s opinion on climate change and disability. Notable findings include that 91% of respondents said they did not feel “mainstream responses to climate change have adequately considered and accommodated for the effects of climate change on disabled people”, and 77% did not feel that disabled people had been included in mainstream responses to climate change.
While we are all experiencing increased cost of living and shortages of basic necessities as an effect of climate change, this is only exacerbating the existing inequalities that disabled people deal with. This is because disabled people often endure poverty, discrimination, and stigma, which, when compounded with the effects of climate change, puts them in an extremely vulnerable position.
It is of even greater concern that the vulnerability of disabled people is often overlooked because they are not being sufficiently represented in the overall climate change discourse. A reason behind this is the lack of accessibility within climate action, discouraging and preventing disabled individuals from becoming involved in climate action.
At Global Action Plan, our focus on behaviour change makes us especially concerned about the barriers between disabled people and climate action.
While there is much to do to bridge this gap, an important first step may be to promote more education and awareness of disability issues.
Furthermore, community-level support through grassroots organisations can help disabled individuals cope with climate-related inequalities, as well as provide them an outlet to get involved and share their experiences with climate change.
Our study showed that organisations in the environmental sector have not given the climate challenges experienced, or expected to be experienced, by people with disabilities enough thought. And inversely, many organisations of people with disabilities have not engaged sufficiently with the debate on climate change.