Why is there no more time to waste for fighting climate change?


Human rights matter, right? But how is it linked to climate change? And what does it mean for the Global North and South?

In the last couple of years climate change gained much more attention in the public than a few years back. But regarding global inequality and human rights violations there is much more attention needed. But how are climate change, global inequality and human rights violations connected? And what about climate policy? What role is the Global North playing? How does it affect the Global South? What could all of us do for environmental justice?

Environmental degradation and climate change are a massive threat to human rights especially for people in the Global South and other disadvantaged groups (BMZ) while the Global North is mainly responsible for the cause of climate change (Okereke 2010, S. 464). 

Through the global warming extreme weather events like hurricanes and flooding or the shortage of soil- and drinking water occur and affect particularly the preservation of the natural sources of life, appropriate housing, food, water and sanitation as well as health, adequate standard of living and in extreme cases the right to life of communities and individuals across the world (BMZa,c; UNEP). Furthermore the report of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reveals that the failure of the governments to reduce the emissions leads to irreversible changes for nature and ecosystems and therefore to human rights violations. Besides, the report of IPCC shows that in the time period of 2010 and 2020 the number of deaths due to floodings, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in strong risk regions than in low risk regions (Amnesty International 2022).

Especially poor and disadvantages population groups suffer excessively of the effects of climate change and their situation is exacerbating through marginalization and discrimination like political persecution, social exclusion etc. (BMZa) which is maintained through historical structures of inequality like colonialism (Amnesty International 2022) and the imperial way of living (Brand and Wissen 2017). Besides, they have far less abilities to adapt to climate change due to a poor infrastructure, a low socioeconomic status and less prevention and protection measures. 

In addition, different climate adaption and mitigation policies established from the Global North such as CDM (Clean development mechanism) and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the Role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks in Developing Countries) measures worsen the situation of Indigenous people in the Global South (IFIPCC 2007; BMZb; BMUV). This ‘Green Grabbing’ approach, which is based on knowledge processes of the global north, breaks the right to self-determination and people are forced to leave their homeland (Liedholz 2021, S. 71; Dominelli 2013, S. 435). 

According to estimates, by the year of 2030 there could be around 100 Million people in extreme poverty because of the climate change and the World Bank calculates on up to 143 Million internal migrants in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia if there won’t be determined action against the climate change (BMZa).

But even that it’s not an unknown fact how the climate change is affecting the Global South, the inequality and the human rights, there isn’t enough action to protect the environment which is the source of life. But to implement actions for fighting against climate change there is big change needed – a change in the whole society including politics, economics, ecology, individuals, groups and communities – because only if we see the interconnectedness of the different dimensions and if we work together to use the knowledge of local people and different professions as well as from the global south and the global north, we will be able to tackle the climate crisis and many other ongoing global problems.

But what could we do to stop the climate change and to protect the human rights? One big step is raising awareness about how actions in the Global North affect especially the Global South and in the long run the whole world. Thus, if we keep going we destroy our source of life and so us. But there is still hope and there are plenty of NGOs to contribute and to get inspired to play an active part in societal change or at least to become conscious about the way you act, since:
“We are humans who want the same thing every other human wants – a safe home to live on this planet we call home” (Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Scientist) and there’s no planet B.



Article by Vanessa Halbig

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BMUV – Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, nukleare Sicherheit und Verbraucherschutz (2017): Kyoto-Protokoll. URL: https://www.bmuv.de/themen/klimaschutz-anpassung/klimaschutz/internationale-klimapolitik/kyoto-protokoll. Last viewed on the 24th of June 2022.
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Dominelli, L. (2013): Environmental justice at the heart of social work practice: Greening the profession.In: International Journal of Social Welfare (22). S. 431-439.
IFIPCC – International Indigenous Peoples‘ Forum on Climate Change (2007): Statement by the In-ternational Forum of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change (IFIPCC) on ‘reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation‘ (REDD) agenda item at the UNFCCC climate XII negotiations. URL: https://www.forestpeoples.org/nl/node/2131. Last viewed on the 25th of June 2022.
Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Scientist (n.y.). In: Climate Change. URL: https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/climate-change/. Last viewed on the 25th of June 2022.
Liedholz, Y. (2021a): Berührungspunkte von Sozialer Arbeit und Klimawandel. Perspektiven und Handlungsspielräume. Opladen, Berlin, Toronto: Barbara Budrich Verlag.
Okereke, C. (2010): Climate justice and the international regime. In: WIREs Climate Change Vol. 1, Issue 3., p. 462-474.
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