Climate change impacts people with disabilities
From extreme heat and destructive wildfires to severe droughts, human-induced weather events have become a daily fixture of life today in California and beyond. But despite Mother Earth’s warning signs, the gap between what we should do to reduce the impacts of climate change and what actions we are actually taking is wide — and getting wider.
However, these natural disasters do not play out in a vacuum. During climate-related emergencies, disabled people might be disproportionally affected because of structural challenges inherent in our community.
Taking its toll
As we have seen in recent years, wildfires can start and rapidly spread with little warning. Evacuation orders may come too late, especially for those with additional mobility considerations. Even excessively hot days can be life threatening, with a variety of conditions such as spinal injuries making it difficult for the body to regulate temperature. Social factors, too, are a consideration here, given that residents with disabilities are more likely to experience poverty or inadequate housing that may not have air conditioning.
Compromised health also makes disabled people more vulnerable to extreme climate events, ecosystem service loss or infectious diseases. In a climate emergency, disabled people may be more vulnerable to contracting infectious diseases because of underlying conditions. For example, Hurricane Katrina was found to disproportionately impact more than 100,000 people with disabilities ranging from visual and physical impairments to learning disabilities. Even in non-extreme events, like air pollution, health can be compromised in the long term, especially for vulnerable populations.
Despite the current gap, our state is working to make important progress in fighting climate change. Progress starts with using more clean energy resources.
By Gabriel Griffith Pasadena Weekly Guest Writer From extreme heat and destructive wildfires to severe droughts, human-induced weather events have become a daily fixture of life today in California and beyond. But despite Mother Earth’s warning signs, the gap between what we should do to reduce th...
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