Our report "The Human Side of Climate Change: Human Rights Violations and Climate Refugees" presents a short though comprehensive overview of climate change (related) impacts on humans and how climate change has an impact on the realisation of general human rights principles and on specific human rights.
It also outlines the status of ‘climate’ or ‘environmental’ refugees under international law - the increasingly growing group of people that migrate as a consequence of climate change that lack legal protection.
Climate change increasingly will be a threat to specific human rights that are protected under conventions and to the realisation and enjoyment of human rights.
More and more alarming reports show that as people are progressively forced to migrate due to climate change, it could in fact become a key challenge to global peace and stability.
All States, both individually and joined by others, must respond to the effects of climate change if any State is to live up to its international human rights obligations. This means doing all it can to prevent and to respond to the threats to human rights resulting from climate change and to provide access to remedies in the event of violation of these rights.
As Prof. Cees Flinterman concludes in his foreword:
We are facing an exceptional global challenge. A common challenge, in which all countries need to cooperate and all humanity should unite and take responsibility. Responsibility for historic emissions, for human rights, for climate induced migration and thus for the adoption of binding agreements on safe greenhouse gas emissions levels. Humanity deserves and needs a just, clear, global and binding agreement coming out of or following very soon on the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference.
What more is there to learn from the report?
Well, you probably knew that burning fossil fuels adds CO2 to the Earth's atmosphere and that scientist agree this causes climate change. But did you know that:
- Burning fossil fuels, through air pollution, deteriorates the health of millions and is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people globally every year.
- Even so, global subsidies on fossil fuels add up to about US$ 400 billion per year.
- Livestock and their by-products may account for up to 50 percent of annual worldwide Green House Gas emissions.
- About 1.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water and this number will likely rise due to climate change.
- CO2 is turning our oceans acidic, which means that sea creatures cannot get the carbonate they need for their shells.
- Almost 300 million additional people could be exposed to malaria by the 2080s, potentially bringing back malaria to the USA and Europe.
- Up to 200 million people will be on the move due to climate change by 2050.
- These climate refugees hardly have any legal protection as they are not regarded as refugees under international law.
- Climate change in certain areas could increase the likelihood of armed conflict or civil war by more than 50% by 2030.
- Humans in developing nations suffer most from the impacts of climate change, having done least to cause it.
- UN human rights bodies have concluded that states need to address climate change harm as it remains a critical human rights concern and obligation under international law.