Human Rights and the Climate Crisis: Renewable Energy

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, education, health, food, and water, will suffer catastrophically. The impact on human rights disproportionately affects disadvantaged and marginalized communities. STFer’s are campaigning for their schools to transition to 100% renewable energy and engaging in climate justice education. We are committed to taking action for environmental justice. Join us!

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Renewable energy, often referred to as clean energy, comes from natural sources or processes that do not run out. For example, sunlight and wind keep shining and blowing, even if their availability depends on time and weather. Four of the most widely used renewable energy types are:

  • Solar: When the sun shines on a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by cells in the panel. Electrical charges then move in response to an electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.
  • Wind: Large turbines spin with the power of the wind, feeding an electric generator that produces electricity.
  • Hydropower: Relying on fast-moving water, hydropower converts the force of that water into electricity by spinning a generator’s turbine blades.
  • Geothermal: Deep wells bring very hot underground water to the surface which is then pumped through a turbine to create electricity.

5 Minutes:

New: Test your knowledge with this Clean Energy Quiz

Sign petitions demanding schools transitions to 100% renewable energy!


30 Minutes:

Calculate your carbon or water footprint

Get educated on climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice

Learn how to transition your school to 100% renewable energy

Take action to stop climate change

Teachers: Check out our Educators Portal for classroom resources

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we can tackle that.”

Thomas Edison, American Inventor

Renewable Energy Fast Facts

Capturing the Sun

The amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year. (Department of Energy)

Today, over 3% of U.S. electricity comes from solar energy, more than 36 times its share a decade ago. (Solar Energy Industries Association)

Wind in Your Hair

The U.S.’s wind power capacity in 2019 generated enough electricity to offset the consumption of 29.5 million average American homes. (Department of Energy)

By 2030, wind power is expected to save around 30 trillion bottles of water in the U.S. (Opus Energy)

Water: A Source of Life

Hydropower was one of the first sources of energy used for electricity generation. (Department of Energy)

Using hydropower avoids approximately 200 million metric tons of carbon pollution in the U.S. each year – equal to the output of over 38 million passenger cars. (National Hydropower Association)

From the Earth’s Core

California’s “The Geysers” is the biggest geothermal energy plant in the world, producing enough electricity to power 725,000 homes, and emits no greenhouse gases. (Yale Climate Connections)

Geothermal water heats homes and offices, grows plants in greenhouses and is piped under roads to melt snow. (National Geographic)

Transition Your School to 100% Renewable Energy

Schools are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in a community. Imagine the impact we could have if all schools transitioned to renewable energy. Join the more than 7,330 American schools already moving to clean renewable energy and make a tremendous impact for our future!

STF Action Handbook

Download the STF Action Handbook and script to guide high school students through the process of advocating for schools to transition to 100% renewable energy!

Climate Stories

Sharing your climate story can provide context to WHY you’re concerned about climate change.

Check out these climate stories from STF leaders.

Building Allies

Tap into our Ally Building Resources to help build support on campus and within your community to demand your school transition to 100% renewable energy.

Surveying Your Campus

Use this survey when meeting with facilities directors and school administrators to identify how your campus is using energy and how much it’s spending on energy.

Sign Petitions

STF Chapters are collecting petition signatures to demand school and district administrators transition their campuses to 100% renewable energy. Take action by signing their petitions today!

Progress Toward 100% Renewable Energy:

Energy Dashboards: Culver City Unified School District, Los Osos High School, Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District

Some STF schools and districts now have an energy dashboard that tracks detailed energy use information. It allows users to see each campus’ energy use, cost and production. STF students use these data points to advocate for transitioning to 100% renewable energy.

Additional energy dashboard examples: UC Berkeley, Temecula Valley Unified School District, Halifax Regional Center for Education

Clean Energy Board Resolution: Palisades Charter High School

Palisades Charter High School was the first STF school to pass a board resolution that commits their school to achieving 100% renewable energy within the next 10 years. Their board approved the resolution as a result of STF students advocacy efforts.


What is Renewable Energy?

“What is renewable energy?” by CNBC (Click to watch, 3:23)

Renewable Energy: Energy resources that are naturally replenishing such as biomass, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, ocean thermal, wave action, and tidal action. (EPA)

“By 2042, 37% of power generation is expected to come from renewables.”

Uptin Saiidi

CNBC breaks down the types of renewable energy impacting how we live.

Can 100% Renewable Energy Power the World?

“Can 100% renewable energy power the world?” by TedEd (Click to watch, 5:54)

“The transition towards all-renewable energies is a complex problem involving technology, economics, and politics…But there’s ample reason to be optimistic that we’ll get there. Top scientific minds around the world are working on these problems and making breakthroughs all the time.”

Federico Rosei and Renzo Rosei

TedEd asks why don’t we exchange our fossil fuel dependence for an existence based only on renewables?

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” Film

Trailer for “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” Film (Click to watch, 2:34)

When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library . . . and figured out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind.

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” Film

Watch the film on Netflix or purchase the book. Find resources and follow up from the film in the lesson plan.

Hey Adults: Repower Our Schools with Renewable Energy!

“Hey Adults: Repower Our Schools with Renewable Energy” by Greenpeace USA (Click to watch, 1:59)

A movement is growing to repower our schools with renewable energy. As families across the country gear up for a new school year, kids are imagining a brighter future for their schools. By transitioning to 100% renewable electricity, schools can save money to reinvest in the classroom and provide hands on experience for students with 21st century technology.


Take Action to Stop Climate Change

Get started:

On Your Own/With Friends:

Calculate your:

Steps at home:

  • Install solar and storage in your home
  • Support or initiate solar at your school
  • Replace gas mowers, blowers, hedge trimmers with a combination of rakes and electric or battery equipment
  • If you are stopped in your vehicle for more than 10 seconds, shut off your engine
  • Support and vote for climate-conscious politicians

Reach out to your networks: Use the Climate Crisis Personal Advocacy Planner to identify who will join your advocacy efforts to fight the global climate crisis.

Host a demonstration: Check out this list of advocacy actions you can take on your own, on campus or within your community.

As a School Community:

Schools are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in a community. Imagine the impact we could have if all schools transitioned to renewable energy. Join the more than 5,500 American schools already moving to clean renewable energy and make a tremendous impact for our future!

Check out these materials and resources to help transition school/school district to 100% renewable energy.

International Climate Crisis Information

Human Rights and Climate Change Key Messages (click to open)

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

Educator’s Portal – Lesson Plans

Fill out our teacher survey to share if/how you’ve included climate change in your curriculum and/or what additional resources you need.


Renewable Energy Revamp

In this science lesson, students will be challenged with an optimization problem. A fictional town decided to replace coal with more sustainable energy sources. Students will create an optimal renewable energy plan that meets specific constraints and criteria.

Subjects: Math, Science

Grades: 9-10

CA Environmental Justice

In this short unit, students will explore environmental decision-making, definitions of environmental justice and environmental racism, how communities fight for environmental justice, and what environmental justice can look like in everyday life.

Subjects: English Language Arts, Science, Social Sciences

Grades: 9-12

Trigonometry & Rising Seas

This lesson plan will enable students to apply simple trigonometric functions to understand how global warming is causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt and sea levels to rise. Students will discover how much land will be inundated within the next decade due to sea levels rising.

Subject: Math

Grades: 9-12

Poverty & Climate

This lesson plan includes reading resources to teach students about poverty, how it is exacerbated by climate change and the measures needed to manage it.

Subjects: Economics, English Language Arts, Social Studies (readings available in English, Spanish, French, Russian, and Arabic)

Grades: 9-12

Climate Crisis Mixer

Through role play, students are introduced to 23 individuals, each of whom is affected differently by climate change. Students meet one another in character, learn about the impact of climate change in their lives, how they are responding, and share their reflections and notes in their worksheet.

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, English Language Arts

Grades: 9-12

Renewable Energy Now

Students view two documentary film excerpts outlining the impacts of solar energy technologies in urban China and rural Zambia. Students will discuss the climate crisis beyond the science classroom and explore its social, economic, and human impacts.

Subjects: English Language Arts, Film/Video Arts, Music, Physical Sciences, Environmental Studies, Global Studies, Economics

Grades: 8-12

Film: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

As the drought and resulting famine in Malawi continue, young William Kamkwamba and his family come close to starvation. This true story shows how Williams’s resourcefulness provided a solution for his family and his village: a wind turbine to bring water to the fields.

Watch William’s TedTalk

Subjects: English Language Arts, Environmental Science, Social Studies, Film Studies

Grades: 9-12

Huracán María

In this lesson, Spanish language students will analyze three short excerpts of online newspaper articles about the economic impacts on Florida resulting from the influx of Puerto Rican climate refugees following Hurricane Maria. Lesson Objectives are available for various subjects and focus areas, making it easily adaptable to existing unit plans.

Subjects: Spanish Language

Grades: 9-12

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.

Subjects: English Language Arts, Science, Social Science

Grades: 6-12

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.

Subjects: Geography, Math, Social Science

Grades: 8-12

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.

Subjects: English Language Arts, Math, Social Science

Grades: 6-12

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

Subjects: Grades K-5 Multi-subject, Grades 6-12 ELA, Social Science

Grades K-12

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), U.S. Department of Energy (Fast Facts), Illerlock_Xolms/iStock (Fast Facts), Jotform (Fast Facts), New York Times (Carbon Footprint), Microsoft Clipart (Educator’s Portal), Ricardo Rojas/Reuters (Educator’s Portal), Getty Images (Educator’s Portal), Can You Hear Us (Additional Educational Resources, Educator’s Portal), Youth4Climate Strike Philippines (Educator’s Portal)

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