Climate Change and Human Rights

It is an indisputable fact that climate change has detrimental effects on human beings and in particular on the disadvantaged. Yet, many normative frameworks of analysis tend to ignore the human rights angle.

Scholars such as Simon Caney believe that a Human Rights approach is the appropriate way forward to use as the main lens while viewing and analyzing Climate Change. Caney recognized three major elements of this.  1. Climate change jeopardizes some key human rights. 2. A human-rights-cantered analysis of the impacts of climate change enjoys several fundamental advantages over other dominant ways of thinking about climate change. 3. A human-rights-cantered analysis of the impacts of climate change has far-reaching implications for the kind of action that should be taken.

The need of the hour is an understanding among the international community at large that climate change isn’t simply a political or economic issue. It is very much a human rights issue, the biggest one of its kind. Problems such as greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere, not only destroy ecosystems but at the same time, they also violate human rights.

The United Nations Environment Programme in its 2015 Climate and Human Rights report outlined that extreme weather events are more prevalent in a warming world, leading to death, destruction of property and crops and limited access to food, water, shelter, healthcare as well as education. This report hence highlighted the detrimental implications that climate change has on human life.

World leaders must understand the severity of the problem at hand. A lot is at stake for humanity and the question of human rights if we continue to delay climate action. Environmentalists believe that most effective option would be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. The impacts of the greenhouse gasses currently in the atmosphere will be felt for decades. Thus, applying a human rights approach is more crucial than ever before.

As climate change intensifies, people will be forced to adjust, invest big in infrastructure or migration. This shows that those who have more money can afford to escape severe damage. But those who are historically neglected or marginalized in will be further disadvantaged and threatened. This shows that climate change does not impact everyone equally. Low income communities, women will all be disproportionately affected as global temperatures rise. These groups will thus suffer the most due to climate change. But what this inequality of climate impacts could lead to is a continued hindrance to the progress of climate action as those better-off would continue to feel that they’re relatively safe from the adverse effects of climate change.

Thus, in order to level the playing field, it is crucial to recognize the adverse effects of climate change, which violates human rights and disproportionately affects communities that are already most vulnerable. The reason that we need a human-rights approach is because it attempts to protect the vulnerable, while a cost-benefit analysis fails to do so because of its character, and a security-based approach fails to do so because its concern is only with climate change that causes conflict.

Categories: Social Issues, World

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