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 petitions demanding schools transitions to 100% renewable energy!

NEW: Learn about 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

Connect4Climate

“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?

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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:

The Green Schools Campaign provides materials and resources to help you to investigate your school’s/school district’s status as an emitter of greenhouse gases.

Take Action: Sign petitions to convert our schools to 100% renewable energy.

In California:

CA Senate Bill 467 would ban all fracking in California by 2027, taking aim at the powerful oil and gas industry in a state already planning to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The bill will also halt new oil and gas permits within 2,500 feet of homes or schools by Jan. 1.

Read the text of SB467


Additional Materials and Resources

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

Read STFers’ Climate Stories (click to open)

Sharing your climate story can provide context to WHY you’re concerned about climate change. Check out these STFers’ climate stories for inspiration.

Hi everyone, my name is Josiah Edwards. I’m an STF intern and this is my climate story. As a child, I always had difficulty breathing. That’s mostly because I had asthma, but it was made even more difficult because of the environment I lived in. Los Angeles County is ranked as one of the worst places in terms of air quality and air pollution. That means that I had difficulty breathing every day as a consequence of the horrible, horrible pollution in our air. That means, I didn’t get the chance to enjoy beautiful days like this one, and I don’t think that’s right. No child should have to suffer because we don’t know how to deal with pollution. That’s why we need to tackle this climate crisis, with the full force that we possibly can muster, in order to ensure that children don’t have to suffer like I did. (Click to watch, 0:57)
Hi, my name is Erin Vinson and I attend Santa Monica High School. I believe my passion for the environment is an accumulation of everything I’ve witnessed in terms of photos of our dying planet, as well as tangible experiences I’ve had with it. David Attenborough’s “A Life on Our Planet” truly struck me as a thundering call to take action for our environment, providing a voice for our melting glaciers and our dying animals who are soon to take their last breaths if we don’t take action now. Rising sea levels and climate change itself makes me feel as though I’m trapped inside a small room that’s rapidly losing air, like I’m suffocating. This feeling was amplified by the all too recent California fires. In many instances, I felt like I couldn’t breathe even weeks after they had been put out. If my school made the transition to clean, renewable energy, I’d feel as though the air would be seeping out of that room just a bit slower, and I’d feel able to have a short moment of relief, because any step of any size towards a cleaner present is progress. (Click to watch, 1:04)
Hello, my name is Abdullah Rafique. I am a senior at Sierra Canyon and this is my story. Cracked desert land had replaced lush farms which had once covered the hills surrounding my grandparents home in Pakistan. The drive which was once full of beauty was now only a reminder of what once was. The land had been destroyed. My uncle described how excessive use of fertilizers caused this grand scale of destruction. While this was not directly caused because of climate change, the lack of environmental care which was fueling climate change was present here as well. Thus, I doubled my efforts to become a better climate advocate. (Click to watch, 0:48)
Hi, my name is Lila Bragard and I’m from Culver City High School. I inhaled the dark brown air around me as I walked through the smoke to get to school. My cousins were evacuating. The Torahs from my temple were being evacuated. My favorite forests, my friends’ homes, my favorite trails and campsites were all burning. This was not nature’s fault. This was not normal. When neighborhoods near me were burning, when I learned that animals were going extinct 114 times faster than usual, when half the world population is supposed to be homeless by the time I’m 65, when there are more environmental refugees fleeing from environmental disasters than political refugees fleeing from wars and other conflicts, when my ability to simply live in a habitable world is at risk – how could I focus on anything else? I fight climate change because it’s real, because not enough is being done about it, and because my life depends on it. I fight climate change because in twenty years when it’s too late, I don’t want to look back and regret that I didn’t do more. Will you regret that you didn’t do more? (Click to watch, 1:14)
“Since I have not always lived near my LAUSD schools, there were years when I would have a two to three hour car commute home. I was uninterested in these time-consuming rides, having nothing to play with and constantly getting car sick. Looking out the window held my interest, there were endless things to see. It was not until I reached middle school that I realized I had been occupied by the trash on the ground, the foggy and unclear air, the wild amount of cars on the road, and the unnecessary signs and lights I saw daily. There are millions of people surrounded by an unhealthy environment without even being aware of it. It has been normalized and hidden in plain sight.” – Victoria Valdez, 9th grade, Hamilton High School

“I have always been obsessed with nature and the environment, finding fulfillment in being surrounded by nature and animals. I love standing on the beach, enjoying my feet in the sand, the cold water crashing into my shins, but am devastated when I turn around and look helplessly at the massive oil field. I imagine what it would be like to not know there is a rapidly shrinking window to protect the natural world I hold so dear. But it’s a truth we all have to face. I hope future children won’t have to carry the same environmental concerns as youth today. That’s why I’m using my privilege to fight for the environment, for animals and their rights, for future children, for plants, for minorities and the oppressed/unheard, for everyone. We are all impacted by the destruction of the environment, therefore we must all fight for a sustainable future.” – Dane Pearson, 11th grade, Culver City High School
“People have debated climate change my whole life. Deniers ignore the fact that temperatures are hitting record-levels and that entire species are dying faster than new ones evolve. One climate change topic important to me is environmental racism. I have learned about fast fashion: how large, Western corporations exploit third-world countries, their manufacturing wreaking havoc on the local communities, degrading their environments because it’s cheaper to build factories there than in the West. STF intern Josiah Edwards’ video highlighting environmental racism in my own community opened my eyes to how climate change is affecting my friends, family and neighbors. Raising awareness and education in my school community, in the town that I’ve grown up in, is the first step in taking action for our future on this planet.” – Noelle Guzman, 12th grade, Carson High School
“Growing up, I had no idea about the urgency of the climate crisis, until a girl my age spoke up: Greta Thunberg. As I saw youth take center stage in environmental activism, I decided not to shy away or stay silent. I have traveled internationally. I have had the opportunity to cherish the colorful, strong-scented streets of Mexico City and the lush, green forests of England. I wouldn’t feel the same about climate change without these experiences. Climate change makes me feel a range of emotions: relief that people are coming together and spreading awareness; and uneasy about the alarming rate at which these dangers are increasing. I also feel inspired to make a difference. This planet should be seen by every person as a source of happiness and hope. As Greta Thunberg says, ‘You must not gamble your children’s future on the flip of a coin. Instead, you must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.’” – Isabel Umekubo, 12th grade, Da Vinci Schools

Video: “Earthrise” (4:29) (click to open)
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) (click to open)
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) (click to open)
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) (click to open)
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)

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