Adapting to climate breakdown and lessening its impact

Displacement, economic change, food security and urban design

A guide to resources on adapting to climate breakdown and the substantial changes it will bring to social and economic life.

This page is part of the Disability Debrief resource guide to climate change, lovingly compiled by Áine Kelly-Costello. It is made possible by support from readers and CBM Global.


  • Displacement, relocation and migration. Climate disruption is perhaps most visible in the immediate aftermath of extreme weather emergencies, but it creates slow onset effects impacting the living situation and livelihoods of many to the point of relocation and displacement. Climate and dislocation/migration research specific to people with disabilities is still sparse but these resources offer a good starting point on key issues.
  • Economy, energy, and just transition. The scale of economic and social climate transitions needed for a healthy future for people and planet can’t be underestimated.
  • Agriculture and food. From a source of livelihood to a source of toxins, there’s a breadth of ways food security, climate breakdown, ecosystems and our bodies interact. The resources here offer outlets into the lived experience of disabled people navigating the complexity.
  • Urban design and transport. As governments and the private market respond to the need for low emissions transport systems, it’s not a given that accessibility is on the table. Check out these resources, where scholarly accounts and planning discussions which centre disabled people’s voices feature heavily.

Displacement, relocation and migration

Start with...

Examining the Climate Change-Migration Nexus from a Disability Lens. (Divya Goyal, Bill of Health, 2023.)

“Growing interest in recognizing and promoting migration as a form of climate adaptation risks exacerbating existing inequalities and generating new ones for disabled people. Scholars, policymakers, and advocates in this field need to pay greater attention to the impact of climate-induced migration on disabled people, document the experiences of disabled people with climate-induced migration and displacement — with a particular focus on their vulnerabilities and capabilities — and deliberate on strategies to build the adaptive capacity and resilience of disabled people.”

Going further...

Economy, energy and just transition

My Debrief article on this topic offers an overview on the breadth of the global challenge.

An overview of the breadth of the global challenge...

A just transition for disabled people. (Áine Kelly-Costello, Disability Debrief, 2023.) Includes examples of where initiatives are and are not embracing systemic change.

Going further...

“We find that households including an economically inactive disabled person earn less and consume 10% less energy than other households, and are more likely to experience energy poverty. Disabled households have lower consumption than other households in most categories, with the exception of basic consumption such as food, energy at home (gas and electricity), water and waste services: in effect they have less—and sometimes inadequate—access to resources. We conclude that more attention should be paid to disabled households needs to ensure a just energy transition.”

Agriculture and food

Start with…

Interview with blind Indian climate resilience trainer Pavan Muntha about regenerative agriculture and livelihood. Includes transcript. (Enabling commons podcast, 2023.)

Going further...

“Inclusive agroforestry could help realize the human rights of people with disabilities, particularly for those in rural areas who often face additional challenges securing a livelihood because of limited access to health care, physical infrastructure, and transportation. [...] The wide range of tasks and knowledge required in agroforestry provides opportunities for people with diverse disabilities – a variety of skills are required at all stages of food production. From planning and planting crops, to irrigating and harvesting them, to feeding and grazing animals, to processing and selling food products, there are many roles that people with disabilities can assume in alignment with their individual skill set.”

Urban design and transport

Start with

Karina Cardona on ableism and urban mobility. )Enabling Commons Podcast, includes transcript, 2023.)

Going further...

“Knowing that the best way to protect people from climate chaos is by tackling inequality, it is critical that our built environment integrate universal design, as lack of accessibility has cascading and compounding impact on vulnerable communities, and especially persons with disabilities. [...] Vernacular architecture is climate resilient and caters to diverse needs while embedded in our culture and civilizational values. Given scarce resources, we must prioritize climate resilience and accessible infrastructure together as we build forward, especially when the lack of both affects people with disabilities the most.”