Op-Ed: Climate change efforts won’t work if they exclude people with disabilities – Los Angeles Times

by | Dec 27, 2022 | Climate Change

At last month’s United Nations climate negotiations in Egypt, disability activists urged governments to include people with disabilities in their plans to address climate change. In response, the member states adopted an “overarching decision” and a climate action plan that reference the disability community. But those steps still fall short of the needs and demands of people with disabilities.Recent reports show that people with disabilities have been systematically neglected in U.N. climate negotiations and domestic climate policies worldwide. Amid unprecedented efforts to tackle the climate crisis, the United States has the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that climate action at home and globally doesn’t leave people with disabilities behind.Worldwide, more than one billion people with disabilities face the risks of rising sea levels, reduced access to clean water and food, and death as a result of climate change. People with disabilities are two to four times more likely to die or be critically injured during disasters such as hurricanes, heatwaves and floods. Hot weather poses grave health dangers, including for those with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries. Research suggests that people with psychosocial disabilities have three times greater of a risk of death during heatwaves. AdvertisementPoverty and other forms of discrimination compound the problem. A study following Hurricane Harvey in 2017 reported that people with cognitive and physical disabilities were more likely to live in flooded neighborhoods, many in public housing.This elevated risk is preventable, not inevitable. It reflects a lack of inclusive planning, lifesaving medical equipment in power outages, accessible emergency information and accessible transportation — reinforcing patterns of social and economic marginalization.Organizations of persons with disabilities have had to fill the gaps, leading efforts in response to disasters, including wildfires in California and hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, governments continue to flout disability law, as illustrated by a successful federal lawsuit in the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. A fede …

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