Inclusive Climate Mitigation
Climate mitigation is the process of limiting the progress of climate change and, ideally, stopping and reversing the amount of atmospheric warming. For the most part, mitigation efforts focus on reducing our carbon emissions and using sequestration to pull carbon out of the air. There is already a massive global effort to mitigate climate change: Allied Market Research notes that the renewable energy market alone “was valued at $881.7 billion in 2020, and is projected to reach [$1.978 trillion] by 2030” – and that number doesn’t include other important mitigation efforts, such as investments in public transit, more energy-efficient buildings, and both natural and mechanical carbon sequestration. Mitigation can also refer to mitigating the impacts of climate change, which has similarities to adaptation. For example, one consequence of climate change is that flooding will reach farther inland when hurricanes hit, due to a combination of higher sea levels and stronger storm surges; we can mitigate that inland flooding by restoring coastal wetlands, which absorb hurricanes’ storm surges (on the other hand, this could be framed as adapting to stronger hurricanes by holding back the ocean with wetlands).
Disability-inclusive climate mitigation covers a suite of actions and strategies. Most importantly, inclusive mitigation requires that people with disabilities are active participants in climate mitigation efforts. This includes things like government asking the disability community for input on new public transit projects, renewable energy firms hiring more people with disabilities, and the disability community proactively engaging in mitigation at all levels – including taking personal actions to decrease our own carbon dioxide outputs. People with disabilities can also teach others about climate change and advocate for the supplies, equipment, and strategies they need to be sustainable with low carbon emissions.
On-the-ground investments and actions should also address disability- and health-related needs. For example, new, low-carbon transportation systems should be universally accessible or, in the case of electric personal vehicles, have accessible options (especially considering that, as of 2022, there aren’t any fully-electric wheelchair-accessible minivans on the US market). As we expand renewable energy, we must always keep the electric grid stable for the safety of people who use ventilators and other powered medical equipment. And when it comes to urban and regional planning, such as how to improve public transit and where to build new homes, any changes should meet unmet needs of the disability community; be universally accessible (for example, in the case of new apartment buildings near transit); and actively improve the independence and well-being of people with disabilities.
The list above doesn’t come close to addressing every piece of climate mitigation nor how to make those pieces fully accessible. Just like with accessible adaptation, there are many areas of overlap between different types of mitigation, types of disabilities, and intersectional factors of both individuals and communities. Scope and scale matter, too: someone could ask how to make public transit in the US more accessible in general or they could ask how to make a specific subway station easier to navigate for people who are blind. Because of this complexity, the challenges are endless – and so are the opportunities. At SOA, we look forward to developing more opportunities for persons with disabilities to work with us on climate change mitigation and to assist others in developing mitigation processes in an accessible and inclusive fashion.