Why the climate crisis is a human rights issue

Following the first Episode of the EarthRights podcast, I wanted to write a post reiterating the undeniable connection between the environment and human rights.

The climate crisis and our pertinent destruction of nature are causing fundamental shifts to our planet, species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing, and natural disasters are becoming more and more frequent.

Not only are these changes terrifying for the future of the planet and the species we cohabit with, but equally they are frightening for the future of human-kind.

Nasa has estimated that in a 2-degree warmer world, 37% of the population will experience life-threatening heat waves every five years, 61 million more people will be exposed to severe droughts, millions of people will experience food insecurity and more than 1 billion people could be displaced as their home-lands become uninhabitable.

So you see the connection is clear: the climate and ecological crisis is a human rights issue.

By definition, human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, they include things such as the right to life, the right to meaningful and informed participation, the right to access justice, as well as rights to food, water, sanitation and health.

Here at EarthRights, we believe it is extremely important to highlight this connection. Not only do we feel a duty to speak out for those who may not have a platform or have not had their voices heard, despite already experiencing the unequal impacts of the climate crisis. But we also know that bringing humans into the environmental conversation is one of the only ways to invoke real and immediate change.

For many years, the discourse around the climate crisis has focused on images of polar bears stranded on melting ice caps, or koalas stuck up burning trees. Of course, these images are hugely distressing, and we firmly maintain that it is fundamental to protect these species, more than anything for the sake of the species themselves.

Yet we must make clear that politicians, policy-makers’ and climate deniers will only be persuaded to change their minds and fight against the climate crisis when they understand and accept the severity of the impacts of this crisis on us fellow humans.

In 2020 we saw just how quickly governments around the world were able to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, freeing up funds and resources that many of us did not know existed.

We believe in the long-term, the threat of the climate crisis on the human population is far greater than that posed by Covid-19, and so it must be treated with the same level of urgency.

The climate crisis is a human rights issue. 

Listen to Episode 1
Pippa Neill

Pippa Neill

Co-creator and Co-editor of EarthRights