Working Paper
Climate justice for persons with disability

Few harmed much, fewer still harmed too much

Building on Rawls’ theory of justice and Sen’s theory of capabilities, I present an outline of social justice under climate shocks, illustrating it with the experiences of persons with disability.

Social justice holds when inequality is responded to by rules that afford more primary goods, such as rights and incomes, to those who have less—the maximin principle of the Rawlsian social welfare function. Climate injustice consists in putting more climate bads, not primary goods, on those with slender shoulders—a maximin social ill-fare function. Cross-country climate injustice is a larger instance of this.

The developed world has achieved much economic progress (including more primary goods) on the back of burning fossil fuels, which has put the planet on a heating curve that puts massive climate bads on lives and livelihoods today and in future. Most of these bads are put on the shoulders of developing countries.

This work addresses within-country climate injustice, such as when persons with disability shoulder extra losses in capabilities, especially being without drinking water for 24 hours. The significant capability losses estimated to have been endured by persons with disability in Indonesia in 2018 and 2020 should inform a more enlightened and socially just response to climate injustice so that, along a just transition, few are harmed much, fewer still harmed too much.