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Effects of climate change disproportionately impact persons with disabilities

  • November 3, 2021
  • Daniel Mulroy

Due to discrimination, marginalization and economic factors, the impacts of climate change disproportionately impact persons with disabilities.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that “Persons with disabilities are often among those most adversely affected in an emergency, sustaining disproportionately higher rates of morbidity and mortality, and at the same time being among those least able to have access to emergency support” (link).

As climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, the impact on persons with disabilities will increase. These impacts include an increase threat to health, food security, water, sanitation, and livelihood.  The record heat waves in Canada this summer (link), Hurricane Ida in the United States (link) and the flooding in Germany (link) all provide stark examples of this.

With more light being shed on this issue, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling on governments to include people with disabilities within risk management and climate-related decision-making at all levels.

Can the impacts of climate change violate human rights? The Dutch Supreme Court in The Netherlands vs Urgenda, found that an inadequate response to climate change can violate human rights.

In Canada, however, climate change cases have not been successful, yet.

Bakerlaw’s Laura Lepine explored Canada’s framework of climate change legislation and what a challenge to climate change action could look like under section 7 of the Charter. You can read Laura’s research paper here (link) and learn more about climate change litigation here (link).

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