Human Rights and Climate Change

25 Pages Posted: 2 May 2014

See all articles by Sam Adelman

Sam Adelman

University of Warwick - School of Law

Date Written: April 28, 2014


This chapter addresses the relationship between human rights and climate change. It begins with a discussion of the impacts of anthropogenic global warming on human rights like the right to life and the right to health based on the scientific consensus in the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This followed by an analysis of the limits and possibilities of using human rights to address a problem that James Hansen has described as a planetary emergency. My central argument is that human rights enjoy a relatively high level of legitimacy but finding solutions to climate change is ultimately a matter of politics and economics. I discuss the campaign to overcome the limits of human rights by making ecocide the fifth crime against peace under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The following section contrasts arguments in favour of the right to emit greenhouse gases with substantive rights such as the right to a clean and healthy environment. The chapter concludes with three brief case studies on the 2005 Inuit petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the lack of human rights protection for climate refugees, and the emergence in Latin America of legal protections of the Rights of Nature.

Keywords: climate, human rights, refugees, crime

Suggested Citation

Adelman, Sam, Human Rights and Climate Change (April 28, 2014). Warwick School of Law Research Paper No. 2014/04. Available at SSRN:

Sam Adelman (Contact Author)

University of Warwick - School of Law ( email )

Gibbet Hill Road
Coventry CV4 7AL, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom
+44(0)24 7652 3101 (Phone)
+44(0)24 7652 4105 (Fax)


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