Intersectional issues: How climate change compounds other vulnerabilities

The impacts of climate change do not affect people equally or in isolation from other factors adversely affecting people’s lives. In this section, we explore some key intersectional issues, which can combine to compound vulnerability and make for worse outcomes for people. Because of the relevance to the experience of Anglicans across the Communion, we will look at:

  • Indigenous communities, who are particularly marginalized in face of the climate emergency;
  • Young people, who are now facing the fallout of the decisions made by past generations;
  • Climate and environment through a gender lens
  • Climate-induced displacement, migration & trafficking
  • The relationship between climate, conflict, peace and reconciliation
  • Climate change and sustainable development
  • Climate Change and Biodiversity loss

There are more intersectional factors and approaches than these, but they are beyond the scope of this document. However, this does not diminish their importance. Most importantly, we must remember that people’s lives and communities’ experiences do not fit into neat boxes–they stretch across issue areas and concerns. They are multi-faceted and complex. As such, even as we highlight the following areas as critical analysis to incorporate into our understanding of the real-life consequences of climate change and any policy discussions, we also emphasize the importance of not siloing these issues and taking a holistic approach to any climate action.

Indigenous peoples at the forefront of climate resilience

Across the world, Indigenous and First Nations communities are some of the most vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change, often due to their deep connection to land and resources. Formally recognising and securing the customary lands of Indigenous peoples is critical in reducing emissions. Globally, Indigenous territories and livelihoods are threatened by extractive industries that contribute to climate change, including mining and intensive farming (including through deforestation). In some cases, threats are posed by measures considered as climate mitigation strategies, such as hydroelectric power or biofuel production.

It is important to note that these experiences are intersectional: for example, Indigenous communities displaced from their land risk a double vulnerability as migrants[1], which may be more acutely experienced by young people, especially young women.

However, Indigenous perspectives offer both practical and spiritual responses. Indigenous groups are at the forefront of climate resilience[2], with local knowledge on the sustainable management of lands, forests, and resources giving critical insights into effective adaptation and expertise on building resilient communities[3].

At the same time, Indigenous communities offer a shared perspective of deep interconnection and mutual flourishing with creation, countering common worldviews based on extraction and domination. While Indigenous voices are increasingly recognised in climate politics, their ability to meaningfully participate in and influence decision-making remains limited[4]. To respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, these voices must be centered in advocacy, to avoid misappropriating sources of knowledge and engage communities in responses to climate change.

Young People and Climate Change

 Every missed opportunity for genuine climate action affects the well-being and opportunities of young people. The failure of those in positions of power and authority to address the crisis with adequate resource and urgency has seen young people mobilise globally for climate action on a scale not seen on any other policy issue.[5]

According to the United Nations, the world is home to 1.8 billion young people (aged 10-24) – “the largest generation of youth in history”[6]. This generation – a quarter of the global population – is not only experiencing the disastrous impacts of climate change right now, but are seeing the prospect of their whole adult lives defined by the climate crisis.

The impact of climate change on young people is not confined to the physical impacts of a changing climate on the world. Research suggests that ‘climate anxiety’ and ‘climate grief’ require specific mental health support.[7] Young Anglicans have also highlighted other areas of their lives being impacted by climate change, including the devastation of property, land and infrastructure; loss of livelihoods; food shortages; price hikes; forced migration; health impacts; stress; loss of identity and self-esteem; substance abuse; and increases in gender-based violence.

It is therefore no wonder that many young people have already taken the decision to drive climate action locally, nationally and internationally – they are seeing the effects of inaction on a daily basis, and cannot rely on their elders to make decisions that protect the well-being of the young.[8] Young people across the Anglican Communion are involved in a huge range of initiatives to tackle climate change, such as developing seedling nurseries; incorporation of tree-planting into the life of the Church (e.g. confirmations) and life events (weddings, funerals); home-based vegetable gardens; action on plastic waste (clean ups, recycling, advocacy); promoting clean energy “Jikokoa” stoves; raising community awareness of the impacts of climate change; and advocacy on issues beyond their control (e.g. vehicle emissions).

If genuine solutions to the climate crisis are to be achieved, the voices, experiences and ambitions of young people must be at the heart of the climate decision-making process, while at the same time not giving today’s world leaders permission to delay or delegate genuine climate action.

Climate and environment through a gender lens

Climate change is an issue that is affecting people all over the world; however, evidence shows that women are disproportionately impacted by the negative consequences of the climate crisis, particularly those living in low-income contexts affected by poverty and with limited access to resources. Additionally, when women are left out of critical decision-making processes, their voices are not heard, their needs often go unrecognized, and they are made even more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

For example, women in rural areas are highly dependent on local ecosystems that are vulnerable to climate-related impacts and are at greater risk of food insecurity than men. They produce the majority of the world’s food supply but own less than 20 percent of the land because of unequal land ownership rights. Because climate change is impacting rain-fed agriculture–sectors dominated by women–their livelihoods and security are heavily affected as opposed to male-owned commercial farms with greater access to technology and capital.[1] As temperatures rise, women are also at a greater risk of heatstroke when working in agricultural settings and other health risks such as malaria.

Women are more likely than men to die in climate-related natural disasters and are more vulnerable to sexual abuse when they are displaced from their homes. Female environmental defenders are also killed at higher rates than men. With these noticeable disparities (and others not mentioned here), it is critical that any environmental intervention must be gender-sensitive with all responses carried out with the full inclusion and participation of women of all ages.

Climate-induced displacement, migration & trafficking

 The climate emergency is already forcing people from their homes and will likely cause unprecedented displacement and migration in the coming years and decades.

Climate change drives displacement migration in two distinct ways: through sudden-onset disasters and climate-related natural hazards, such as cyclones and tropical storms, and through slow-onset disasters, such as sea level rise and desertification. Whether sudden-onset or disasters that have developed slowly over long periods of time, both occurrences leave people in unstable conditions, often forcibly displaced from their homes. While return and rebuilding might be possible after sudden disasters, particularly with climate-sensitive disaster risk reduction strategies in place, slow-onset climate-related disasters can make life and livelihoods unsustainable – through the erosion of land, repeated crop failure, extreme heat or water scarcity. Whether communities choose to migrate or whether they feel as if they are left with no choice but to leave their homes, these worsening trends will increasingly drive the need for permanent relocation.

Moreover, people forced from their homes by climate change are currently excluded from protection under international law addressing migration and refugees. While some regional agreements provide a broader definition of protection for those fleeing their homes due to unstable conditions that impact public life[9], the needs of such committees are mostly overlooked. People displaced from their homes due to these unfavorable conditions may also be accurately classified as economic migrants–that is, the root cause of their migration is considered economic rather than climate-related. Economic migrants often face hostility in receiving communities and may not receive the support they require to re-establish their lives. Additionally, people forced from home are more vulnerable to exploitation, including the risk of being trafficked.

Most migration is local and internal, with the burden of care falling on low-income countries–those least responsible for causing climate change. As such, the climate emergency is an issue of justice as much as it is a policy issue.

The relationship between climate, conflict, peace and reconciliation

Climate-induced displacement is one of the many factors that can also lead to increased fragility and conflict-related tensions in communities, and the relationship between climate change and conflict is increasingly a topic of study and discussion. While the direct causal link between climate change and violent conflict is not easily established, climate change is increasingly understood as a “threat multiplier,” which means the pre-existing vulnerabilities and conflict risks are likely to be exacerbated by climate-related factors.[10]

For example, neither climate-related natural resource scarcity nor extreme weather events are easily linked as the sole cause of violent conflict, but existing stresses and vulnerabilities (political instability, poverty, etc.). can be exacerbated by both rapid-onset or slow-onset climate-related shocks. Climate-related natural hazards (particularly sudden onset disasters) are often seen as proxies for climate change and can exacerbate conflict-related tensions. It is often the case that other mediating variables, such as ineffective governance or corruption, play a large role on the impact that climate-related risks have in conflict-affected contexts.

For example, climate change-induced droughts have seen pastoral communities leave their settlements to seek water and pasture for their livestock in far areas with most of them crossing national borders. This has been a major source of conflict among affected communities who feel invaded by others. In East Africa, frequent and persistent droughts in Karamoja Cluster encompassing parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda have been exacerbated by climate change, advancing desertification and the environmental degradation of rangelands. This has not only worsened the food insecurity of the pastoral communities living in these regions but have also increased their incidences of conflict over the scarce resources.

Recent research has focused on certain areas in which climate- and conflict- related risks are likely to exacerbate an already fragile context[11]:

  • Livelihoods and food security – resource-dependent livelihoods and potential impact on migratory movements and civic unrest.
  • Governance – where there are low levels of resilience to deal with climate-related risks due to lack of proper government institutions, conflict and fragility could be exacerbated
  • Social cohesion – climate change impacts service provision and leads to mistrust of government and potential for non-state armed groups and organized crime

The link between climate change, peace, and reconciliation is becoming increasingly important for practitioners, policymakers, and communities to understand. For example, opportunities in the post-disaster space can be leveraged to shore up peace (such as in Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami) or they can be missed opportunities to consolidate peace (such as in Sri Lanka after the same tsunami).[12] Additionally, climate change adaptation interventions can have a stabilizing effect when they are conflict-sensitive, participatory, and cross-cutting. Interventions that are poorly designed and are not conflict-sensitive can exacerbate local conflicts.[13] Interventions require a multi-sectoral approach as climate change- induced conflicts have multiple drivers that require them to be addressed holistically.

Climate change and sustainable development

While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030 incorporate targets and objectives that aim to mitigate the impact of climate change, the climate crisis has severely threatened the prospects of achieving sustainable development across the world. Climate is already having an impact on sustainable development. For example, its impact on access to clean water and food and livelihood security is reversing hard-won development objectives of the last several decades. Approaches to sustainable development must incorporate an understanding of the complex interactions between climate, social, and ecological systems.[15]

Furthermore, approaches to sustainable development have varied greatly in different regions of the world. Carbon-intensive development models in both industrialized and developing countries appear to be at odds with the goals of poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods.[16] However, development pathways that are climate resilient can work to ensure that our natural and ecological resources are not negatively impacted by the advancement of social and economic development. Climate change has to be included as one of the many threats to sustainable development and incorporated into development policy in all countries.

 Climate Change and Biodiversity loss

The diversity of life on earth (biodiversity) was designed by the creator to co-exist and flourish under ideal environmental conditions as also designed by Him. The changing climate however is altering ideal environmental conditions, negatively impacting many of the world’s species and ecosystems, driving biodiversity loss.  There is therefore need to tackle the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss together. Recent studies[17] have found that restoring 30 percent of lands that have been converted for farming in priority areas, alongside retaining natural ecosystems, would prevent over 70 percent of projected extinctions of mammals, birds and amphibians whilst also putting us on track to sequester almost half of all the carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

While the need to develop separate global frameworks and agreements on climate change and biodiversity is accepted, there must be greater coordination at all levels to ensure that climate change, biodiversity and other goals are met in a complementary way.





[3] Ford, et al. The Resilience of Indigenous Peoples to Environmental Change. One Earth (June 2020)

[4]Parsons, M. Indigenous inclusion in the science-policy sphere requires more than symbolic gestures (August 2021)

[5] Global movements such as the Fridays for Future climate strikes have been marked by being led by young people


[7] Williams, M.O. (2021) ‘The relationship between climate change and mental health information-seeking: a preliminary investigation’, Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol 21(1):69-78; Wu et al (2020) ‘Climate anxiety in young people: a call to action’, The Lancet Planetary Health, Vol 4(10): E435-E436.



[10] Beatrice Mosello, et al. “The Climate Change-Conflict Connection: The Current State of Knowledge.” Climate Security Expert Network, Adelpi. (November 2019)

[11] Katie Peters, et al., “Climate Change, conflict and fragility: An evidence review and recommendations for research and action.” Overseas Development Institute. (June 2020).


[13] Beatrice Mosello, et al. “The Climate Change-Conflict Connection: The Current State of Knowledge.” Climate Security Expert Network, Adelpi. (November 2019)

[14] IAWN Newsletter


[16] Ibid.