Climate change, environmental health, and human rights

Elsevier, Encyclopedia of Environmental Health (Second Edition), 2019, Pages 653-660
Carlarne C., Depledge M.H.

Global climate change poses pressing social, environmental, and economic challenges for the international community. Climate change highlights layers of human vulnerability to environmental change, including the intimate and varied connections between environmental quality and human health. Despite growing recognition of these links, the relationships between climate change and environmental health and the parallel relationship between environmental health and human rights remain underexplored but increasingly controversial. In the wake of this debate, the international community continues to press forward with negotiations for a post-2012 legal instrument to address climate change. Neither the existing legal infrastructure-embodied by the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol-nor currently envisioned post-2012 approaches address links between climate change, human health, and human rights. This article explores the links between climate change, human health, and human rights-focusing on the human right to health. The article examines the current state of the international debate surrounding the human right to health and the proposed, yet elusive human right to a healthy environment. The fundamental dilemma is whether the existing system of human rights can continue to function effectively if it fails to account for the intrinsic links between climate change, environmental quality, and human health.