Climate Change and Human Rights

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Climate change violates many human rights, including rights to life, health, and property. In-deed, climate change already interferes with the enjoyment of certain rights. Climate change interferes with the enjoyment of rights recognized in human rights treaties, but a treaty‘s recognition of a human right does not mean that any interference with that right by any party, anywhere in the world, violates a legal duty. Global warming is expected to contribute many human wrongs such as disease, malnutrition, and flooding of coastal communities, to name a few. It may seem obvious that climate change will violate many human rights, including rights to life, health, and property. Indeed, climate change already interferes with the enjoyment of certain rights. Melting sea ice and permafrost have made survival more difficult for Inuit and other indigenous peoples that depend on the Arctic environment for their subsistence, forcing them to relocate homes and communities. Shrinking glaciers have placed mountain communities at risk of flooding. In the Sahel, south of the Sahara, warmer and drier weather has shortened the growing season and reduced crop production. In many areas of the world, rising sea levels contribute to coastal flooding and the loss of wetlands.

Climate change interferes with the enjoyment of rights recognized in human rights treaties, but a treaty‘s recognition of a human right does not mean that any interference with that right by anybody, anywhere in the world, violates a legal duty. Human rights law places very few obligations directly on private actors such as individuals and corporations, and none of those obligations is likely to be triggered by climate change[1]. The human rights obligations in the context of climate change can be traced to the well established body of literature connecting human rights and the environment, and efforts to establish a freestanding right to a clean and healthy environment. More recently, it can be identified in efforts specifically aimed at highlighting the human dimension of climate change.

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Post Contributed by:

Miss Kaushiki  Brahma

Assistant Professor of Law

Indian Institute of Legal Studies

[1] John H. Knox, Climate Change and Human Rights Law, 50 VIRGINIA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 1, (2009).

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