Impacts of climate breakdown and disaster risk response

Overviews, capacity-building and extreme-weather events

A guide to resources on the impacts of climate breakdown and Disaster Risk Response (DRR). Overviews on understanding and building capacity in relation to DRR, and then sections on a range of the weather events and emergencies climate breakdown brings about.

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.


  • Overview and regional news. Here are some high-level resource collections and policy reports on DRR at a global or cross-continent level. Featuring DRR articles and reports from different regions.
  • Capacity building and disaster preparedness. From listening to disabled first responders to creative and resourceful DRR trainings, this collection spotlights the leadership and upskilling needed for centring disability in disaster response. Also see the more general section of the same name below which has a broader focus on climate organising and advocacy.
  • Health. Climate breakdown impacting the health of disabled people.
  • Extreme Heat. From the disabling effects of extreme heat on our bodies to the local and national plans and policies that don’t account for our specific needs, these articles highlight the lived experience of disabled people navigating through a world getting far too hot.
  • Fire and environmental pollution. The presence of wildfires is increasingly long-lasting and treacherous. People with respiratory conditions and those whose communities aren’t set up for them to evacuate bear the brunt. Many of the issues overlap with wider air pollution health impacts on disabled people.
  • Drought and water scarcity. Access to water is one of the most fundamental basic needs which climate disruption is jeopardising. These resources are quite policy oriented but they give an idea of just how many connected and systemic themes intersect with water shortages, from food security to sanitation.
  • Flooding and superstorms. Flooding and superstorms are a climate-fuelled reality in many regions and these resources spotlight how disabled people are being impacted. Themes like inaccessible or non-existent evacuation processes recur across many forms of disaster, and in the case of flooding, storms and other disasters that affect the liveability of buildings, housing also frequently becomes precarious given the compounding challenges of finding alternative and stable accessible accommodation.
  • Unreliable power. Unreliable access to energy, especially power, is a showstopper for most people but in the disability community and for those with health conditions, the implications can be life or death. Many need power to breathe, to refrigerate medications, for life-dependent heating or cooling, to charge mobility or communication devices and more. These articles get into disabled people’s experiences of power disruption/precarity.

Overview and regional news

Watch for an overview...

Going further...



“This report is intended to inform how persons with disabilities understand and perceive climate change, what is their experience of dealing with climate extremes, what is the impact on their health, livelihoods and support system, and their actual level of inclusion in climate adaptation planning.”


“And what hurt me a lot is that in every movement, we create some sort of how can I say, elite, the ones that are always invited to the international platform seminars... we are reproducing that oppressive system into the way we are presenting social issues. And that's the problem. The problem is that we are continue having elites so we have the elites of the outcasts... I love what I'm doing. But I'm not the only one. Why cannot women with disabilities be more present? Why cannot be non binary people with disabilities present?... the thing that we need to do is to create community”

Capacity building and disaster preparedness

Start with...

‘The first thing we need to realize is that it’s not disabled people that need to do more. Because we’re already doing everything we can. At those trainings about emergency preparedness, some man in a three piece suit is always asking, “Do you have extra food?  Do you have a way to get out?  Do you have this?  Do you have that?” They always say, “Have a place to go.”  But where am I going to find a wheelchair accessible place to go?  If you’re thinking about a hotel, forget that.  Who has the resources to pay for a hotel, and for how long? What I want to ask them is, “What are you doing for me?”  Not just on paper.  Not just some fake evacuation drill that makes them think that they’re prepared.  Why don’t you start by implementing programs that include us?  Because when we think in terms of disability justice, we have to start with this: Absolutely nobody left behind.’
“People with disabilities are often at the margins of disaster response. That’s a real problem… After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in 2017, the Centers for Independent Living and emergency management worked in close collaboration on the island to create Core Advisory Groups in every county.  In 2020, there was a catastrophic earthquake in the southwest area of the island.  But this time, the Core Advisory Groups were collaborating with emergency management. It was a night and day difference from 2017.  With the Core Advisory Groups in place, emergency management made effective use of the registry to coordinate and prioritize response. The data shows that when government collaborates with disability organizations during disasters, more lives can be saved.” 


Health impacts also feature strongly elsewhere in the collection, including in Tori Tsui’s work on mental health, pieces below about the medical impacts of heatwaves on disabled people, and other DRR resources on this page which highlight the precarious or non-existent access to healthcare disabled people have access to after disasters.

Extreme Heat

Start with…

Disability in the Heat - Why authorities need to prioritise people at highest risk as temperatures rise. (Áine Kelly-Costello, Disability Debrief, 2022, India/global.)

“… asking about particular heatwaves was dodging a more pervasive reality. Yes, the heat arrived earlier, considerably reducing wheat yields, and economically impacting farmers livelihoods as well as consumers. Yes, it sent India's average maximum March temperatures the highest they've been in 122 years. But really, living in the ongoing extreme heat as a person with a disability in any location that regularly sees temperatures climbing into the 40s, especially when lacking air conditioning, is a survival skill. Unjustly, it's called upon more and more every year.”

Going further...

“People of all ages and most geographies will be stressed by heat. Children wind up in the ER much more often on hot days in the warm season than on moderate and cool days, largely due to infections, injuries and neurological concerns. Kids with chronic health conditions, and child athletes are especially at risk during heat waves. [...] And risks often vary greatly by intersecting vulnerabilities. A white, middle-aged American living in New England might be more susceptible during a heat wave than a white, middle-aged American in the South. But [...] How about if the Northeastern office worker has multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition affecting the central nervous system, worsened by overheating? What if both of them have high blood pressure, and have been prescribed beta blockers, which can make people more sensitive to heat?"

Fire and environmental pollution

Start with…

Disabled People Struggle to Evacuate From Wildfires. Amanda Morris, New York Times, 2021.

Going further...

“I have the privilege of studying wildfires—but I often don't have the privilege of escaping them when it matters most. [...] Even though it's been 30 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, my community is still at risk [...] We need research that identifies who is at highest risk for health complications following smoke exposure. Perhaps most importantly, we need to ensure disabled people are among the scientists, public health officials, and policy makers responsible for these decisions because who better to know what's best for the community than the community members themselves?”
“individuals with disabilities are experiencing a ‘multiple jeopardy’ defined by the convergence of disability with other social disadvantages such as racial/ethnic minority and elderly status and amplified by their proximity to pollution sources.”

Drought and water scarcity

Flooding and superstorms

Start with...

The right to be rescued (includes video, transcript, and additional resources). Rooted in Rights, 2015, US. Ten years after Hurrican Katrina, survivors and disability advocates recount the harrowing experiences of abandonment and the advocacy taking place in the aftermath.”

Going further...

“While collaborating with Bangladesh Protibandhi Unnayan Sangstha (BPUS) to deliver flood relief to 350 persons with disabilities in Sunamganj and Sylhet, I spoke to dozens of persons with disabilities and family members who reported not having received other forms of humanitarian aid from the governmental or private groups. In a region that lacked grassroots disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction efforts, local leaders were ill-equipped to implement effectively the national policy imperatives to prioritize flood-affected persons with disabilities. Instead, OPDs, dedicated community organizers, and volunteers had to work hard to close the gaps between governmental policies and on-the-ground realities for flood-affected persons with disabilities.”
“Roofs of houses and churches blown away, roads blocked, fields and trees destroyed, power grids damaged, utility poles and power lines fallen across houses, gas stations damaged, and many people displaced, among them persons with disabilities—such was the situation in the city of Cayes after Hurricane Matthew struck the southern coast of Haiti. We visited seven temporary shelters, but it was impossible for us to know the number of people housed there… In one of the centers, the supervisor told me there were no people with disabilities there, but we counted seven.”

Unreliable Power

For more on energy hardship and just transition, see the “Economy, energy and just transition” section.

Start with…

Texans With Disabilities During Winter Storm Uri – A qualitative study. Angela Frederick, 2022. Documents the experiences of Texas residents with disabilities and families with disabled children who endured Winter Storm Uri and the ensuing blackouts:

“The interviews reveal the hardships people with a wide range of disabilities experienced during this cascading disaster, including the inability to power life-giving medical equipment and the intensification of pain and health problems due to the loss of heat and water. Findings also show that participants were not passive victims in the face of these life-threatening challenges; disabled people and parents of those with severe disabilities went to extraordinary lengths to survive and to help others survive the disaster, including providing and receiving critical forms of care from family and community members during the storm. In addition, the study illuminates the short-term impacts of Winter Storm Uri and its long-term consequences, which some participants were still negotiating a year later.”