Is climate change a human rights issue?

Tackling climate change is at the heart of the movement to protect human rights. Fundamental human rights such as the right to life, work, education, housing cannot be guaranteed without first securing a stable climate.


What causes wars? Disputes over land and resources are often prime drivers for conflict. Over the next few decades drinking water, arable land, habital land that does not suffer severe flooding is becoming more and more scarce. Already, desertification, scientifically linked to climate change by the UN IPCC, has proved a clear cause for the conflict in Dafur resulting in over 200,000 deaths and millions of refugees to date. A government cannot start to guarantee the basic human rights of its people in those circumstances. Furthermore, the worst effects of climate change are being felt in the poorest parts of the world with the highest risks of instability. In order to prevent future conflicts urgent action to tackle climate change is needed now.

The world will not achieve the Millenium Development Goals by 2015, 2025, 2050 or 2100 if we can't stabilise carbon emissions. What could be a more obvious human rights issue than reducing child mortality, raising children out of poverty or increasing access to education (to name but 3 of the MDGs)? Climate change is inextricably linked to improving the human rights of the world's population - especially those most vulnerable peoples.

Those that argue that simply improving the economies of developing countries to solve the world's problems are ignoring both the lessons of history that humans act for the wider benefit of mankind, and the realities of the world today. For the first time in the history of our species, governments, business and individuals all need to work for the global good rather than the good of our own small, arbitarily defined group.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
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Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

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Why modern men are losing their testosterone

Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?

Flickr user Tom Simpson
Sex & Relationships
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Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
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