Human Rights and the Climate Crisis

The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time and we are at a monumental moment. Shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding–the impacts of climate change are global and unprecedented in scale. Lack of access to clean water, endless drought, and increasingly destructive natural disasters jeopardize our livelihoods.

If governments fail to take aggressive and targeted action to fight climate change,  people’s human rights, including to life, health, food, and water, will suffer catastrophically. The impacts on human rights disproportionately affects disadvantaged and marginalized communities. STFer’s are campaigning for their schools to transition to 100% renewable energy, participating in California state legislative advocacy and engaging in climate justice education. We are committed to taking action for environmental justice. Join us!

Get Educated: If You Only Have…

60 Seconds:

The science is settled and the climate crisis is here. If our communities fail to take climate action, what does that mean for our future? Rising sea levels, toxic air and lack of access to clean water are just a few of the world-wide impacts we will feel if we don’t act now. Our rights to breathe, eat and dream without fear will be compromised. But we still have time to change course. We can avoid more dire impacts of climate change by limiting warming at a local, state, national and global level. The solution is you. Are you ready?

5 Minutes:

NEW: Sign the petition to demand your school transitions to 100% renewable energy!

Test your knowledge with this Climate Change Quiz

Learn about Climate History:

30 Minutes

Calculate your carbon or water footprint

Catch up on latest research from HRW’s Environment Division

STF Chapters: Use these Green Schools Campaign resources to get started today!

Climate Change Fast Facts

Watery Going to Do?

By 2040, 1 in 4 children will live in areas of extreme water stress, areas of extremely limited water resources.

Land now home to 200 million people could sit permanently below the high tide line by 2100. 

Protect Your Mother

About 36 football fields’ worth of trees are lost every minute due to deforestation.

55 million people globally are affected by droughts annually.​

Take a Deep Breath

7 million premature deaths annually are due to the effects of air pollution.

Our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for similar emissions to the amount produced by the global airline industry.

You’re a Disaster!

Since 2015, the U.S. has experienced roughly 100 more large wildfires every year than the year before.

Environmental disasters linked to climate change are threatening the lives of more than 19 million children in Bangladesh.

“Three Seconds” PSA

Watch: “Three Seconds” (Click to watch, 4:18)

“I believe we should have the right to eat food that’s safe…drink water that is clean, breathe air free of toxins. These are natural rights, not things that can be bargained for in Congress. When enough people come together, we will make waves, and wash the world into a new era filled with freedom for all. But it is up to you.”

Spencer Sharp feat. Prince Ea


“I Am Greta” Documentary

Trailer for “I Am Greta” (Click to watch, 2:22)

The story of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is told through compelling, never-before-seen footage in this intimate documentary from Swedish director Nathan Grossman. Starting with her one-person school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament, Grossman follows Greta—a shy student with Asperger’s—in her rise to prominence and her galvanizing global impact as she sparks school strikes around the world. The film culminates with her extraordinary wind-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.

“I Am Greta” Documentary

Watch the documentary on Hulu. Find more resources and follow up from the film in this Educator’s Toolkit from Can You Hear Us?

Introducing Josiah Edwards

Watch: Living Near Drilling Is Deadly. Why Don’t California Lawmakers Care? (Click to watch, 4:19)

“Growing up in Carson, a city in Los Angeles County, as a Black kid with childhood Asthma, my parents were always worried about my ability to just breathe…. To make matters worse, my middle school was less than a few miles away from one of the biggest refineries West of the Mississippi.”

Josiah Edwards

Climate Change Activist, Human Rights Watch Student Task Force Intern, Sunrise Movement Hub Coordinator

Read Josiah’s New York Times Op-Ed: Living Near Drilling Is Deadly. Why Don’t California Lawmakers Care?


Take Action to Stop Climate Change

Get started with:

On Your Own/With Friends:

Calculate your:

Use the Climate Crisis Personal Advocacy Planner to identify who you can encourage to calculate their environmental footprints and have impact on the global climate crisis.

As a School Community:

Investigate your school’s/school district’s status as an emitter of greenhouse gases. How to transition to 100% renewable energy? Advocate for 100% renewable energy.

Sign petitions to convert our schools to 100% renewable energy.

In California:

CA Assembly Bill 345 provides criteria to protect residents and communities near oil and gas extraction sites. AB345 specifically includes measures to enhance public participation, establish resources for community groups to participate, and to direct CalGEM to establish a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors.

Read the text of AB345

Additional Materials and Resources

Human Rights and Climate Change Key Messages

Climate change impacts, directly and indirectly, an array of internationally
guaranteed human rights. States (duty-bearers) have an affirmative obligation to take
effective measures to prevent and redress these climate impacts, and therefore, to
mitigate climate change, and to ensure that all human beings (rights-holders) have the
necessary capacity to adapt to the climate crisis. Climate justice requires that climate
action is consistent with existing human rights agreements, obligations, standards and
principles. Those who have contributed the least to climate change unjustly and
disproportionately suffer its harms. They must be meaningful participants in and
primary beneficiaries of climate action, and they must have access to effective
remedies. OHCHRʼs Key Messages on Human Rights and Climate Change highlight
the essential obligations and responsibilities of States and other duty-bearers
(including businesses) and their implications for climate change-related agreements,
policies, and actions. In order to foster policy coherence and help ensure that climate
change mitigation and adaptation efforts are adequate, sufficiently ambitious,
non-discriminatory and otherwise compliant with human rights obligations, the
following considerations should be reflected in all climate action.

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Key Messages on Human Rights and Climate Change

Video: “Earthrise” (4:29)
A moving spoken word poem about fighting for us by fighting for Earth by Amanda Gorman. (Click to watch, 4:29)
Video: “Three Seconds” (4:15)
An epic presentation of where humanity stands today and how we must all work together to make it to the fourth second. (Click to watch, 4:17)
Video: Climate 101 with Bill Nye the Science Guy (4:33)
Bill Nye narrates this short film on the basics of climate change. (Click to watch, 4:33)
Documentary Movie: David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (83:00)
In this unique feature documentary, titled David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, the celebrated naturalist reflects upon both the defining moments of his lifetime and the devastating changes he has seen. Available on Netflix, the film addresses some of the biggest challenges facing life on our planet, providing a snapshot of global nature loss in a single lifetime. With it comes a powerful message of hope for future generations as Attenborough reveals the solutions to help save our planet from disaster. (Click to watch, 1:59)

Educator’s Portal – Lesson Plans

Documentary: River of Gold

This documentary chronicles the clandestine journey of two war journalists and their guide into Peru’s Amazon rainforest to uncover the savage destruction of pristine jungle in pursuit of illegally mined gold. The film makes clear the consequences of this devastation on a global scale. Magnificent photography of plants, animals, and people inspires audiences to engage in solutions to protect the Amazon.

Watch the movie trailer, 2:59

Curriculum guides available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Energy and Climate Change

In this lesson students will explore the connection between climate change and our energy consumption. Students will:

  • Learn about the causes and impacts of climate change;
  • Understand the link between Global Goals 7 and Global Goals 13;
  • Learn to distinguish between human and naturally induced Greenhouse Gas Emissions;
  • Identify the regions of the world that emit the most greenhouse gases.

Analyzing Environmental Justice

See how pollution disproportionately affects people experiencing poverty and members of racial and ethnic minorities. Explore reasons why people experiencing poverty and members of racial and ethnic minorities are often exposed to more pollution than others. Define environmental justice. Use a map to locate environmental injustice. Read graphs to learn about environmental discrimination. Think about solutions to environmental discrimination.

CYHU: Educators for the Environment

Can You Hear Us? (CYHU) is an impact organization for the documentary I AM GRETA, working to amplify local climate action efforts to save our planet. This Educator’s Toolkit includes practical tips on creating a more sustainable classroom; Simple questions to ask students to encourage climate literacy; Films to screen in the classroom; Book recommendations to get the conversation started; Additional links and resources for educators.

Watch the I AM GRETA documentary trailer, 2:00

Contact the STF Team if you would like additional resources or can help us curate our teacher’s portal to your needs.

Photo credits: Sea Choi (page banner), Karina Duarte (Get Educated, Additional Educational Resources), Pixlr (Fast Facts), New York Times (Carbon Footprint), NRDC (In California) Can You Hear Us (Additional Educational Resources, Educator’s Portal), Youth4Climate Strike Philippines (Educator’s Portal)

Permanent link to this article: