What has climate change got to do with human rights?

By Savio Carvalho London,

Climate change is one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time, says Savio Carvalho, Senior Advisor on International Development and Human Rights. 

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?

Indigenous Peoples are often at the frontline of global warming because of their dependence on the environment. Many live in fragile ecosystems that are particularly sensitive to changes in climate. This threatens their cultural identity, which is closely linked to their traditional land and livelihoods. 

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.