How Climate Change May Affect Human Rights Protection

Categories: Climate Change

Climate change threatens our abilty to survive and achieve sustainable development. It occurs over a period of 100 years or more as a result of natural processes such as volcanic activity, changes in solar activity, ocen currents or radical changes on earth. Nowadays, our planet is facing such a problem. For instance, the climate of our planet is constantly changing. Approaching geological data, the average global temperature fluctuated from Q7 S to Q27 S in differnt geological periods. Now, the average temperature of the earth is about Q14 S and it is far from maximum.

It is also important to define human rights here. Human rights are the minimum quality of life that everyone can enjoy, i.e. human beings have the opportunity not to be afraid for their health and life or they can express their opinion freely. . Are climate change and human rights related to each other? Yes! Secretary General of Amnesty International claims climate change is a human rights issue, because its devastating effects affect realization of human rights ( Naidoo 2017).

Human rights are applied in a non-discriminatory manner to all people, but some human rights documents emphasize particular concerns for women, the elderly, children, migrant workers and the disabled. These groups have a particular vulnerability to climate change. In addition, human rights instruments recognize the fundamental nature of international cooperation in the exercise of these rights. Disasters which related to the weather and rising sea levels have destroyed people’s home and limited their ability to earn money.

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In addition, if waste is not significantly reduced, approximately 600 million people could face drought and famine as a result of climate change. Increasingly , these two issues, climate change and human rights are closely linked and an unstable climate is leading to many conflicts, as well as human rights violations. Climate change affects human rights in a variety of ways: including the rights to life, to food, to water,to education, to health, to development, to housing and self-determination.
Firstly, the most basic of all human rights is the right to life, which is in many ways endangered as a result of climate change. According to Enele Sosene Sopoga, if you do not address the problems of climate change , life will continue to be threatened and endangered, especially for the most vulnerable people , for example, the lives of humanity in island countries are in danger (Enele Sosene Sopoaga, Prime Minister). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘ everyone has the right to life, liberty and security ‘(UDHR . But the fact that climate change is violating the right to life is clearly threatening the security of billions of people on the planet. Bangladeshi Abul Xasan Mahmud Ali called this threat ‘existential’. As a result of climate change such as storms, floods, heat waves, water, drought are expected to increase and an increase in the number of people who suffering from deaths and injuries is estimated. According to a report by the Climate Change Forum and DATA international , climate change has killed approximately 400.000 people a year and by 2030 their number could rise to 700.000 (Benenson 2017). For instance , Hurricane Yolanda in the Philippines stated the lives of about 10.000 people in 2013 and caused devastation ( Benenson 2017). In addition, climate change is causing devastation and landslides that can be catastrophic. The IPCC’s fourth assessment said that 30,000 people died in 1999 as a result of devastation and landslides in Venezuela (Humphreys and Robinson 2009). Moreover, heat wave is one of the most dangerous effects and it also leads to loss of life. Studies show that a one day heat-wave killed 700 people in 1995 (Humphreys and Robinson 2009). Moreover, In 2003, a heat wave in Europe led to a significant increase in deaths from respiratory, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Furthermore, In the context of climate change, extreme weather events may be the most visible and most serious threat the right to life , but they are not the only ones. The World Health Organization claims climate change will impact the right to life for illnesses such as malaria , malnutrition and diarrhea in 2030 and 2050. And it is estimated to cause 250.000 deaths each year ( Benenson 2017). We can conclude that current anthropogenic climate change is violating the right to life. To protect the right to life, states must mitigate the effects of climate change and take effective measures to prevent unexpected losses of human life.
Secondly, General Coordinator Elizabeth Mpofu claimed the drought and floods caused by climate change have caused food shortages and paralyzed some developing countries (Elizabeth Mpofu, general coordinator). The right to food can be assessed as inextricably linked to the right to life. Climate changes affects many ways of exercising the right to food, i.e. the resulting damage to agriculture and food production is a negative impact on lifestyle, food security and human rights to food. According to United Nations Development Programme report, 600 million people face malnutrition due to climate change. This situation , in particular, could have a devastating effect on sub-Saharan Africa( UNDP 2016). Rising temperatures, changes in precipitation lead to erosion and desertification. As a result, it makes fertile lands interfile, reducing crops and livestock. For instance, ‘10-50% in vegetable crops, 10-30% in melons, 10-20% in rice’(Sarvinoz 2017). In addition, the extinction of high mountain flowers, which are a source of food and income, is due to climate change. This leads to a shortage of food and in increase in their prices. According to a World Bank estimate, a rise in average temperature to 2C puts between 100 million and 400 million people at risk of starvation, and malnutrition kills more than 3 million people a year ( The World Bank 2010). For instance, we can see in the example of Turkana how climate change is effecting the right to food. There, mothers explain that the cause of their children’s death is due to starvation. The death of livestock has lead to a decrease in meat and dairy products for feeding. Community members faced problems of hunger and malnutrition. ‘The right to food is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As stated in article 11, states must take the necessary measures to reduce and alleviate hunger , even in the event of natural and other disaster’ ( Jimenez 2015). Like all human rights, states have to protect and respect the human right to food. And the government must take into account the impact of climate change in developing appropriate solutions for food security.
Thirdly, the effect of climate change on water has a serious impact on human right to water. In addition to air, water is important for human health. If we are deprived of air, we die in a few minutes, if we are deprived of water, we die in a few days. The right to water is not only necessary for survival, but it is also inextricably linked to other rights, such as housing, health and food. We all have the right to have clean water for personal and household use, and that ensures we stay healthy. However, climate change, such as global warming, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels, continues to affect the quantity and quality of water resources. In the 64/292 revolution of the General Assembly recognized ‘the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights’ (UNGA 2010). But climate change has led to a reduction in renewable surface water and groundwater resources in many arid subtropical regions, as a result more than 1 billion people currently without access to safe drinking water. In addition, extreme weather events, such as cyclones and floods, have affected water- leaving polluted water and causing the spread of waterborne diseases. According to a World Bank report, the water needs of 1 billion to 2 billion people cannot be met, as a result of a 2 degree rise in temperature ( World bank). Moreover, the impact of climate change on water rights, can be seen in the example of Aral Sea. The drying up of the Aral Sea , the fourth largest lake in the world in the 1960s, had many negative effects. Particularly, lifestyles of million people living in the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The tragedy of Aral sea has led to the devastation of lands and desertification, lack of drinking water, deterioration of living standards. Thus, climate change is effecting human rights to water as well as other rights.
In addition, the effect of climate change are not limited to the impact on human rights to life, food and water. Climate change has also affected a human right to health. The right to health is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 12 of the Conference on Civil Society, in which all people have the right to enjoy the highest level of physical and mental health (UDHR 1948). Most national constitutions protect the right to health and it is enshrined in other international and regional documents. The impact of climate change of the right to health: the is high risk of injury, illness and death due to overheated fires and fires; in poorer areas, there is a risk of malnutrition as a result of declining food production; there is in increase in foodborne and waterborne diseases and infectious diseases. For instance, the World Health Organization estimates that since 1920, climate change has killed 150,000 people each year in developing countries , mainly in Africa , due to diarrhea , malaria and malnutrition. On a global scale, rise 1 degree in temperature would double death toll (Stephen 2010). Moreover, an increase in neurological, cardiovascular, chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath and lung cancer is observed among humans. Urban air contains carcinogenic substances in industrial and motor vehicle waste, which can cause cancer as a result of their chronic exposure. According to the UNFCC Investment and Financial Flows Report, the number of malnutrition is projected to reach 1,3 million and the number of malaria cases to reach 17,4 million in 2030. Changes in the natural environment or biota as a result of climate change affect human health and well-being. States are required to identify the causes of climate change , prevent pollution, and environmental degradation and take precautionary measures to reduce its negative impact on human health.
Climate change is also threatening the right to education. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘ everyone has the right to education’. In addition, Article 13 of the Committee on Citizenship and Enforcement guarantees free, compulsory primary education for all and calls on States to gradually implement free secondary education for all. However, the effects of climate change have begun to threaten the commit of the right to education. Funds for quality education for children are directed to disaster relief. Failure to ensure the exercise of the right to education and allocation of funds from education violated this right.
Moreover, the right to development is a new concept in human rights law. The right to development addresses the economic disparities between developing countries and integrates human rights into economic development. The Declaration on the Right to Development- the three pillars of the UN charter- provided an integrated framework for peace and security, human rights and development (DRD 2013). It clearly states that development is a human right and that every person has the right to participate in, contribute to and enjoy human rights and economic, social, cultural and political development. But, climate change poses a serious threat to human rights to development. Climate change undermines the right of the vulnerable to socio-economic development. World Bank President Jim Yang Kim said that if the world does not take the necessary measures, a warming planet threatens human well-being and to delay its development for decades (The World Bank 2013). In addition, recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals recognize that climate change and its negative consequences are an important task to ensure inclusive development that benefits all people. For these reasons right to development is so important. Society must continue to mitigate the effects of climate change and take the necessary measures to ensure the right to development for all.
We all have a right to decent standard of living, as well as right to housing. And Article 11 of the Citizenship and Executive Committee states that all people have the right to decent standard of living for themselves and their families, including housing. In addition, General Comment No. 4 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural claims : The right to housing…is essential for the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights (United Nations 1991). Like all economic, social and cultural rights, states are obligated to devote all available resources to the realization of the right to housing for all. However, climate change is threatening our right to housing in various ways. Extreme weather events, such as floods and fires, are already destroying people’s homes and forcing them to relocate. Drought and erosion also lead to gradual displacement of places over time. However, rising sea levels are endangering the homes of millions of people living in low – lying areas. The melting of warm water and glaciers are observed as a result of rising sea levels. Measuring sea level rise is a complex issue , but the global average sea level is projected to rise from 0.44 to 0.74 m by 2100. People who living in poverty face a real threat to lose their homes. Due to climate change, 140 million people livng in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America could be relocated in 2050. In 2017, 18.8 million people were left homeless by natural disasters in 135 countries, more than double the number of displaced people. Loss of land as a result of rising sea levels affects the right to self-determination and ownership of property. President Anote Tong noted that climate change could completely wipe out Kiribati and other downstream island states from the map.
The right to self-determination is recognized as a fundamental principal of international law necessary for the exercises of other human rights. Climate change poses new challenges to the right self-determination , especially threatening the right of island communities to self-determination. There are realities that transcend the ability to adapt to emergencies…migrations are only opportunity for survival. Victoria Tanley Corpuz, the UN rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that the exercise of the right to self-determination and development is facing serious challenges. Temperatures below 1.5 degrees pose a serious threat to small developing island states and underdeveloped states. For instance, if climate change is not taken into account, rising sea levels could lead to a complete flooding of the Maldives. Residents of small island, which depends on local agriculture and fishing, may lose their livelihoods due to the possibility of flooding the island. For these reasons, the effects of climate change threaten the people of the Maldives to exercise their right to self-determination. Article 1 of the UN calls for respect for the right of peoples to self-determination. On the basis of this right, they are free to act in economic, social and cultural development. States must take appropriate measures to ensure that all people has the right to self-determination, which is threatened by climate change.
To sum up, climate change is one of the greatest threats to human rights for us and future generations, affecting the right to life, food ,water, health, development, housing and self-determination. And over the last few decades, the relationship between human rights and the environment has become a controversial issue in many ways and connection between them is very complex issue. All human rights are common, involiable and interreleted. A rise in temperature of 2 degrees will lead to starvation of 100-400 million people, 1-2 billion people will not have enough water and will lose productivity. Between 2030-2050, malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and hot stress are estimated to cause 250,000 deaths each year. In addition, people living in the lowlands are already losing their homes due to floods and landslides. In particular, climate change has had a devastating impact on the human rights of people living in poverty. For instance, in the best case scenario , one in a hundred million people will die from malnutrition, forced migration or disease. Thus, the Human Rights Council recognized that climate change is a global problem that poses a direct and long term threat to individuals, communities and affects human rights ( Human Rights Council Revolution 2008). The effects of climate change are recognized in international human rights, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Social and Political Rights and others. The reason why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 is to ensure that all can live with dignity, freedom, equality, justice and peace. States have an obligation to respect and honor human rights. It is necessary to protect citizens from the harmful effects of climate change and ensure that measures against climate change do not lead to human right violation. Although states have taken important steps towards fulfilling these commitments, but there is still much to do.

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How Climate Change May Affect Human Rights Protection. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from

How Climate Change May Affect Human Rights Protection
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