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Climate Change as a Human Rights Issue: Matters Arising


Climate Change as a Human Rights Issue: Matters Arising

By Oladosu Adenike

Photo credit: from awareness day

An environmental crisis is a human right issue. Since the environmental crisis is a human rights issue, it tells us that we can’t protect the rights of humans without protecting the rights of our environment – it is a two way relationship.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24% of all global deaths, roughly 13.7 million deaths a year are linked to the environment, due to risks such as air pollution and chemical exposure. It is not human rights when we bear the burden of the climate crisis neither is it human rights when we are left behind on issues that define us. Making commitments a reality is a way of protecting our human rights and also limiting global warming below 1.5 degrees of warming is our human right.

Gradually, climate change is eroding our fundamental human rights. Likewise democracy is linked to safeguarding our rights to quality education, and other basic amenities. Classical examples are happening around the world; the rising of sea there is destroying thousands of coastal communities, oil spoilage just as that of the Niger Delta that is decimating lives and livelihoods, droughts and desertification which are among the drivers of farmers and herder clashes. While the shrinking natural resource makes women trek more than 20 kilometers as the case may be in the search for materials that will be used to stabilize the entire household. In most cases as a survival strategy girls are married out as brides thereby compromising their human rights. In this view, postponing climate action becomes the most dangerous thing to do.

The climate crisis is questioning our survival. According to the United Nation Human Rights Council in its resolution 26/27, “climate change is an urgent problem requiring a global solution.” We are not yet on the track in winning the race against climate change. If there is no human right then there is no democracy. Likewise, if there is no environmental right there are no human rights. The more we keep unsustainable activities going, the greater it impacts on our human rights. For decades now the people of the Niger Delta region have been greatly impacted by the environmental instability (oil spoilage) that has clearly challenged their human right; from lack of safe drinking water to no food on the table and disease to bear.  This is also an everyday reality in the Lake Chad region; from the shrinking Lake to the rise of insurrectionists. These regions are where climate change is leading to armed conflict. The next phase of the climate crisis might create a large vacuum that will make it almost impossible for anyone everywhere not to be able to meet up with its human rights.

In furtherance of this year’s human rights day theme, “equality, reducing inequalities, advancing human rights” UN calls on all individuals to fight against human right abuses by fighting for equality. Good! Therefore, it can’t be achieved without fighting against environmental crises ravaging mankind. In one of the United Nation Human Declarations, it says that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and right.” This is not so especially in the global South as climate change crises and bad governance serve as a blockage to this article of equality. A world human rights day without a concrete plan against climate change is a mere fiasco and “empty” day. The climate crisis is happening everywhere with different realities that are unequal. If you want to fight for human rights, then fight against climate change; stand for climate action.

 Oladosu Adenike ( is an ecofeminist and ecoreporter from the Lake Chad region.



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