Welcome to New Earth Disability (NED), which is the first major initiative aimed at addressing the intersection of climate change and disability worldwide. We are happy that you have discovered this extremely important topic, and we will strive to give you more resources to learn and make change in your community. Read on for more.
Why Climate Change and Disability?
Climate change is one of the most significant issues facing the world today, with widespread and growing storms, heat waves, drought, coastal flooding, and more. It has dire consequences for the environment, economies, natural resources, cities, and other parts of humanity in a way that endangers lives and well-being worldwide. The climate is changing largely because humans have been burning fossil fuels, and that burning releases “greenhouse gases” (GHGs), which trap the sun’s heat and warm the earth even more. Many activists are calling to reduce or eliminate emissions to “stop” or even “reverse” climate change, but unfortunately, we cannot stop the warming outright; the climate will keep changing to some level. That means that we must start preparing for climate change and adapt in a way that protects our well-being into the future.
People with disabilities (PWDs) are especially vulnerable to these climate change effects in many ways, whether it’s around inclusive disaster readiness and response (DRR) or finding accessible housing when migrating away from flooded shorelines. Disability covers a diverse array of impairments and populations, and climate change leads to a very broad and interactive set of consequences, so issues of disability and climate change are incredibly complex. Some examples include:
- Climate change will lead to more frequent and intense storms, such as powerful hurricanes or flood-causing downpours. People with disabilities are especially vulnerable during storms: they have difficulty evacuating hard-hit areas, escaping damaged buildings, finding accessible shelters, and finding medical and personal support care during extreme weather events. Therefore, there should be comprehensive disaster readiness and response (DRR) that includes the needs of people with disabilities.
- There will be longer and hotter heat waves in the future where it may be nearly impossible to go outside because of the temperature. Many types of disabilities make it harder to manage extreme heat; for example, people with high-level spinal cord injuries have difficulty sweating and regulating body temperature. They also generally have lower-quality housing with less access to air-conditioning, and it may be difficult to find and get to accessible cooling shelters. This all puts people with disabilities at greater risk of life-threatening heat exhaustion or heatstroke. To improve health and safety, governments and other planners should increase access to accessible cooling shelters, provide disability supports at those shelters, improve housing, and provide electric utility discounts for air-conditioning use.
- Hundreds of millions to well over 1 billion people may be displaced due to the consequences of climate change, such as abandoning flooding shorelines or areas without water, being displaced by a storm and never moving back, or even escaping from violent conflict sparked by climate-related effects. However, it may be difficult for people with disabilities to move; they may not be able to find accessible transportation or housing, they may not be able to keep or re-enroll in healthcare/social services, their personal support networks may become scattered, or they may simply be turned away at the border because of their disability. It is important to guarantee or provide accessible transportation and housing, help to maintain support networks and medical services, and ensure that migration law does not discriminate based on disability.
These are huge issues that will take massive efforts to address. The lives of people with disabilities are at stake, so we must start those efforts now–and in the biggest way possible. That will require everything from research to rebuilding infrastructure and services to creating partnerships between organizations and countries to enforcing international law. Most importantly, it will take resources, focus, energy, and teamwork; it is important to start now.
NED Online at wid.org
The New Earth Disability part of the World Institute on Disability’s website is dedicated to providing information and resources on climate change, its impacts, its effects on people with disabilities, and necessary actions to address their well-being at many levels. WID’s New Earth Disability (NED) initiative has been designed to research the intersections of climate change and disability, educate all partners including climate change and disability stakeholders, collaborate, and advocate for this important and diverse community. We hope you will join us in this effort.
This part of the WID website is broken up into several topics (see below). We are continually expanding our research and partnerships–so please check back regularly. The NED team at WID is always looking for new partners and collaborators as well, so please feel free to get in touch with Alex Ghenis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to this NED introduction page, NED online offers:
- Introduction to climate change
- Climate-related migration
- Heat waves and extreme heat
- Blog posts
- Existing resources
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