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

Books, reports, etc

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 change and disaster risk reduction : mainstreaming disability


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This thematic brief on the sustainable development goals provides key recommendations for the post 2015 goals to mainstream disability in climate change and disaster risk reduction.  It summarises key principles of inclusive climate change and disaster reduction policies and presents a case study of inclusive emergency response in the Philippines after typhoon Hayian

CBM thematic brief : sustainable development goals

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"

IDDC sustainable development statement


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This paper highlights that the issues of disability, poverty and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked and provides key recommendations for disability-inclusive sustainable development discussions and framework

International Disability and Development Consortium statement to the Human Rights Council Resolution 7/23 "Human Rights and Climate Change"

KETT, Maria
December 2008

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"This statement is the work of IDDC’s Task Group on Conflict and Emergencies and is the result of wide consultation among IDDC member organisations. It puts the case to UNOHCHR for a new human rights based approach to tackling climate change which focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities. It concludes by calling for specific action"

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

The impact of climate change on people with disabilities


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This report presents information from the e-discussion which shared information and knowledge about the needs of people with disabilities and good practices for inclusion in situations such as natural and man-made disasters, emergencies, violence and conflict, scarcity of resources, and development efforts, all of which will be affected by climate change. Related resources and e-discussion questions are provided in the appendices
Impact of Climate Change on People with Disabilities
E-Discussion hosted by The Global Partnership for Disability and Development (GPDD) in partnership with the World Bank’s Disability and Development team
8-12 December 2009

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"

Journal articles

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


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