What has climate change got to do with human rights?

Climate change is one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time. Here are some of the basics:

What has climate change got to do with human rights?

Extreme weather-related disasters and rising seas will destroy homes and ruin people’s ability to earn a living. What’s more, unless emissions are reduced significantly, around 600 million people are likely to experience drought and famine as a result of climate change. So you can see there’s a direct link between climate change and human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and housing.

How are women affected by the changing climate?

Across the world, women form the majority of self-employed, small-scale farmers, so droughts, floods and crop failures will hit them first and hardest. They’re also more likely to take on the burden of collecting water, so will be acutely affected by severe water shortages. 

What does it mean for Indigenous Peoples?

Climate change poses a particular threat to Indigenous peoples because their cultures and livelihoods are so interconnected with the natural environment. Indigenous Peoples have long struggled to raise awareness of the threat of climate change and to maintain their ability to live in and protect some of the world’s most distinctive natural environments and richest areas of biodiversity. Global and national responses to climate change must respect the rights of Indigenous peoples and ensure that Indigenous peoples are full partners in identifying and implementing solutions.

Will climate change mean more refugees?

As famines, droughts and natural disasters become more frequent, so the numbers of people on the move across borders will increase. While not all of these people will meet the legal definition of “refugees”, they should still be entitled to support from the countries most responsible for climate change.

Will things like rising temperatures and sea levels lead to more wars?

Quite possibly. We do know that climate change will exacerbate well-known causes of war, such as competition over natural resources. And this will increase the risk of violent conflict in the future. 

What should governments do?

They must do all they can to reduce carbon emissions, including phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels. They must also help people adapt to climate change, and provide compensation, for example to those who have lost their homes because of rising sea levels.

What is Amnesty doing?

Together with partners, we’re pressing governments and institutions like the UN to take concrete and urgent actions on climate change. This isn’t about charity or aid, it’s about human rights and justice.  

READ MORE: IACHR Expresses Concern regarding Effects of Climate Change on Human Rights