Environmental Injustice and the Impact of the Increased Frequency of Extreme Weather Events on People with Disabilities

Funding Agency:
National Council on Disability

In view of Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis”; and Executive Order 14030, “Climate-Related Financial Risk” directing federal agencies to take a whole-of-Government approach to increase resilience to the impacts of climate change and protect public health, NCD’s annual, statutorily mandated 2022 progress report will address the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice on the lives of people with disabilities.

Environmental injustice occurs when minority groups and/or people living in poverty are excluded from environmental decision-making or are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. People with disabilities represent 15% of the world’s population and as the increased frequency of extreme weather events and other environmental issues increase, the disability community disproportionately absorbs the impact. According to a 2020 United Nations report, people with disabilities are at increased risk of the adverse impacts of climate change, including threats to their health, food security, water, sanitation and, livelihoods.

Sudden onset of natural disasters and slow onset events can seriously affect a person with a disability’s access to food and nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation, healthcare services and medicines, education and training, adequate housing, and employment.

Disability status in combination with race, ethnicity, and income is a determinant as to the amount of environmental harm one is exposed to. People with disabilities, especially people of color are more likely to be impoverished, forcing them into low-income housing, which makes their residence more likely to be built near pollution sites. Houston neighborhoods located near pollution sources such as Superfund sites and hazardous waste facilities were home to a significantly higher proportion of people with disabilities compared to the rest of the city. Race, ethnicity, and age amplified these inequalities. Pollution and unsafe jobs and environmentally destructive industries not only affect health, but they also cause permanent disabilities.

Environmental injustice is more prevalent in indigenous communities. Environmental injustice against Native Americans occurs, in part, because of social and economic injustice. In a study of the relationship between proximity to hazardous waste sites and occurrence of birth defects among 28,401 individuals born in California from 1983 to 1988, the strongest association between toxic exposure and congenital defects was found among Native American populations. The proximity to soil lead and lead dust pollution from mining waste poses a more significant health concern for American Indians than any other population. Environmental injustice also occurs in the planning stages of hazardous waste sites, which targeted Native American lands without any input from the population.

The Purpose of this report is to identify how the increased frequency of extreme weather events and environmental injustice impacts people with disabilities in the United States and in its territories. The report should identify the primary issues people with disabilities encounter because of the increased prevalence of natural disasters and environmental change. This report should also address how environmental injustice has a greater impact on people of color and indigenous tribes leading to an increased prevalence of disability in their community, further complicating these targeted population’s ability to mitigate the impact of increasing and extreme natural disasters. This report will address the impact of the increased frequency of extreme weather events on a person with a disability’s health and access to healthcare, community, housing, employment, and education. The report will also look at the higher prevalence of emergency evacuations, power outages, and their impact on people with disabilities.

The report will gather data and evidence to identify the specific issues people with disabilities encounter due to the impact of the increased frequency of extreme weather events and economic injustice. Specifically, the impact, on a person with a disability’s health, access to food, housing, water and sanitation, education, access to the community, and employment. This report will offer recommendations on how to mitigate the impact of the increased frequency of extreme weather events and environmental injustice on persons with disabilities. This report will discuss the intersectionality of disability and how the individual’s specific intersectionality impacts their ability to mitigate and access resources to mitigate the impact of environmental injustice or the increased frequency of extreme weather events.

Deadline:: Nov. 8, 2021




Environmental & Life Sciences
Social Sciences

External Deadline

November 8, 2021