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Climate Change and Human Rights: Periodical Literature

Developed by Anna Ansari. Updated by Rosemary Campagna

Law Journal Articles

Rebecca Bratspies, Do We Need a Human Right to a Healthy Environment?

          Bluebook citation: Rebecca Bratspies, Do We Need a Human Right to a Healthy Environment?, 13 Santa Clara J. Int'l L.31 (2015)

         

Ross C. Anderson,  & Patrick A. Thronson, Achieving Climate Protection: Fostering an Essential Focus on Human Rights and Human Impacts:

Bluebook citation: Ross C. Anderson,  & Patrick A. Thronson, Achieving Climate Protection: Fostering an Essential Focus on Human Rights and Human Impacts, 27 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 3 (2013).

This article seeks to advance the treatment of the climate crisis within the framework of human rights to provide avenues of redress for victims of greenhouse-gas pollution by industrialized nations, to improve the effectiveness of messaging regarding the climate crisis, and to appropriately acknowledge the immense suffering thas has occureed - and is certain to increase- as a result of human-caused climate chaos.

Margaux J. Hall & David C. Weiss, Avoiding Adaptation Apartheid: Climate Change Adaptation and Human Rights Law:

Bluebook citation: Margaux J. Hall & David C. Weiss, Avoiding Adaptation Apartheid: Climate Change Adaptation and Human Rights Law, 37 Yale J. Int'l. L.   309 (2012).

Margaux Hall and David Weiss argue that human rights law has more to offer climate change adaptation than mitigation. The authors also stress that           unless a human rights approach is used, the specter of “adaptation apartheid” looms. They are not the first to apply human rights to adaptation, but they advance the discussion about why the rights framework is a better fit in this context. To prove their point, the authors focus primarily on examples of national adaptation policy and questions of legal liability. Human rights law, however, can also bolster international adaptation efforts, including the creation of new treaties.

Gustav Lanyi, Climate Change and Human Rights: An Unlikely Relationship?:

Bluebook citation: Gustav Lanyi, Climate Change and Human Rights: An Unlikely Relationship?, 37 Alternative L.J. 269 (2012).

This article examines how many economic, social and cultural rights are impacted by climate change i.e. the rights to food, water, housing and health. How climate change affects civil and political rights, such as the right to life, and the cultural rights of Indigenous people are also examined with a particular emphasis on Australia.

Naomi Roht-Arriaza, 'First, do no harm': Human Rights and Efforts to Combat Climate Change:

           Bluebook citation: Naomi Roht-Arriaza, 'First, do no harm': Human Rights and Efforts to Combat Climate Change, Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 593 (2010).

 This Article then turns to three possible ways of building human rights considerations into the climate change regime, with their respective advantages and drawbacks. The Article concludes with some thoughts about harmonizing overlapping international legal regimes more generally.

John H. Knox, Climate Change and Human Rights Law:

Bluebook citation: John H. Knox, Climate Change and Human Rights Law, 50 Va. J. Int'l L. 163 (2009-2010). 

This article seeks to provide a basis for a better understanding of how human rights law applies to climate change. Its aim is to establish some fundamental points. First, climate change already interferes with the human rights of vulnerable communities and is an enormous threat to human rights everywhere. Second, human rights law imposes duties on states to respond to climate change regardless of whether thay can be held responsible for "causing" it.  Third, human rights law also constrains states' responses. Last, and most important, the jurisprudence that human rights tribunals have developed in the context of domestic environmental harm may be applied to global environmental harm, such as climate change, on the basis of the duty of international cooperation.

Siobhan McInerney-Lankford, Climate Change and Human Rights: An Introduction to Legal Issues:

Bluebook citation: Siobhan McInerney-Lankford, Climate Change and Human Rights: An Introduction to Legal Issues, 33 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 431 (2009).

In this short piece, McInerney-Lankford, counsel at the World Bank Legal Department, discusses some of the legal questions arising from the debate about human rights and climate change.  She lays out the context in which the human rights/climate change debate should be viewed, describes the different conceptual, legal, policy, political and institutional questions that need to be resolved in order to best link the issues of climate change and human rights, as well briefly discusses the ways in which the two issues can be connected. 

While this article does not provide great detail, it is useful in that it provides an easily understood overview of the legal issues involved in connecting climate change and human rights.

Sumudu Atapattu, Global Climate Change: Can Human Rights (and Human Beings) Survive This Onslaught?:

Bluebook citation: Sumudu Atapattu, Global Climate Change: Can Human Rights (and Human Beings) Survive This Onslaught?, 20 Colo. J. Int'l Envtl. L. & Pol'y 35 (2008).

In his very readable article, Atapattu, associate director of the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Global Legal Studies Center, highlights the impact climate change has on human rights and the implications of such an impact on international law.  Atapattu discusses a multitude of human rights, including the right to life, the right to health, the right not to be displaced, and the right to food and water, and how climate change impacts each of those rights.  He also spends time on the topics climate change and international peace and security, and “climate refugees,” ultimately urging for the creation of an international legal framework to suitably cover environmentally displaced people.

Atapattu’s article’s greatest strength and use comes from its disaggregation of human rights implications of climate change into numerous particular different rights and how they may each be, or have already been, affected by climate change. 

Marc Limon, Human Rights and Climate Change: Constructing a Case for Political Action:

Bluebook citation: Marc Limon, Human Rights and Climate Change: Constructing a Case for Political Action, 33 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 439 (2009).

Limon’s excellent article begins with an overview of the movement to link climate change and human rights, discussing the 2005 Inuit Petition to the IACHR, the 2007 Male Declaration, the 2008 UNHCHR Resolution 7/23, the 2009 OHCHR report and the ensuing UNHCHR Resolution 10/4, before asking what should be done by the international community if climate change does, in fact, have human rights implications. 

Limon, an advisor at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations Office in Geneva, suggests a number of benefits to be had from taking a human rights-based approach to climate change, including the positive impacts of focusing the climate change debate on individuals and the negative consequences unchecked climate change can have on their lives, the possible emphasis a human rights framework could have on international cooperation with regard to climate change and the ability of human rights organizations and the law to fill a gap in the current climate change regime.  Limon also takes care to point out the possible risks and problems associated with a human rights-based approach to climate change, dividing them into theoretical and practical problems which include issues of political trust between developed and developing countries, as well as the established human rights framework that requires specific remedies, violations, harms and causation.  

The article also notes that although there is an increased awareness of the relationship between climate change and human rights, there is simultaneously an uncertainty as to how to use this increased knowledge to affect climate change negotiations.  Limon suggests that the way to resolve this uncertainty is not through a strong-armed imposition of human rights into the climate change negotiations, but rather through organic integration by the parties to the UNFCCC.

John H. Knox, Linking Human Rights and Climate Change at the United Nations. 33 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 477 (2009)

Bluebook citation: John H. Knox, Linking Human Rights and Climate Change at the United Nations, 33 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 477 (2009).

In his article, Knox, a professor of law at Wake Forest University, provides a very useful, informative and reader-friendly overview of the 2009 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on the relationship between human rights and climate change. 

Knox discusses the impetus for the report, including the Maldives’ request to the U.N. Human Rights Council for an OHCHR report and the Maldives’ submission to the OHCHR, which he worked on as a consultant for the Center for International Environmental Law, before examining the report itself and its conclusions that climate change does not per se violate human rights law, but that states do have obligations under human rights law to address climate change.  Knox also briefly touches on the possible effects the OHCHR report may have on future debate about the relationship between climate change and human rights, particularly within the United Nations system, pointing out the consensual adoption in March 2009 of the U.N. Human Rights Council Resolution 10/4 and the subsequent panel discussion in June 2009.  

Stephen L. Kass, Integrated Justice: Human Rights, Climate Change & Poverty:

Bluebook citation: Stephen L. Kass, Integrated Justice: Human Rights, Climate Change & Poverty, 18 Transnat'l L. & Contemp. Probs. 115 (2009).

Kass, an Emeritus Director of Human Rights Watch and an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School, provides a thoughtful overview of the climate change crisis, its impact on developing countries and human rights, and the appropriate human rights standards to apply to the climate change crisis, as well as suggests remedies for climate change-caused human rights violations on the part of corporations, international organizations and state governments.

Ultimately, Kass concludes that the solution to the development, human rights and climate change problems will begin by looking at the intertwined nature of these issues and pursuing “an integrated version of justice” (Kass) that takes into account all three, rather than treating development, human rights and climate change separately.

Kass’ article is useful not only because it provides an understanding of the current state of the climate crisis as well as discussions of which particular human rights are violated by climate change and how they are violated, but also because it includes commentary, missing in most literature on the subject, on business corporations and the role they do and should play in helping to resolve the current and future climate change and human rights problems.

Amy Sinden, Climate Change and Human Rights:

Bluebook citation: Amy Sinden, Climate Change and Human Rights, 27 J. Land Resources & Envtl. L. 255 (2007).

Sinden, an associate professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, argues in this article that human rights is best understood in terms of a balance of power between the “haves” and “have nots” of the world and that climate change should be viewed through a similar balance-of-power-lens rather than in economic, market-driven “tragedy of the commons” terms.  Viewing climate change as a problem of power imbalance, Sinden posits, will allow for thinking about climate change as a human rights issue and, in turn, “imbue it with a sense of gravity and urgency that communicates to all of us: this is something different; this is an issue that must be understood to stand apart from the normal clatter and noise of day-to-day politics and to demand attention from our best selves.” (Sinden)

Sinden’s article does not directly discuss the legal issues related to climate change and human rights, but does, however, an admirable job of framing the climate crisis in human rights terms.  This article is most useful to get one thinking about the human rights side of climate change generally.

Joanna Harrington, Climate Change, Human Rights, and the Right to be Cold:

Bluebook citation: Joanna Harrington, Climate Change, Human Rights, and the Right to be Cold, 18 Fordham Envtl. L. Rev. 513 (2007).

In this article, Harrington provides a critical “review of the saga of the [Inuit Circumpolar Conference] Petition.”  The article focuses on the Inuit’s inability to make a prima facie case for climate change-based human rights violations by detailing the petition’s legal failings, mistakes and inaccuracies. 

While somewhat vitriolic in its criticism of the Inuit Petition’s use and understanding of international law, the article, although not helpful if one is trying to bridge the issues of climate change and human rights, is helpful in understanding the different and oftentimes difficult legal hurdles that must be overcome to prevail in a legal claim attempting to link human rights and climate change.

Jessie Hohmann, Igloo as Icon: A Human Rights Approach to Climate Change for the Inuit?:

Bluebook citation: Jessie Hohmann, Igloo as Icon: A Human Rights Approach to Climate Change for the Inuit?, 18 Transnat'l L. & Contemp. Probs. 295 (2009).

Hohmann, a law faculty member at the University of Cambridge, suggests the way in which the human right to housing is violated by climate change in Arctic Inuit communities.

This article does not provide any information about the general relationship between climate change and human rights one would want to get an introductory understanding of the topics. However, it is useful for a researcher already aware of the bigger climate change/human rights picture and who wants to see how the two topics can be specifically and factually based.