3.1 Know your subject: Human rights, social justice and climate action

The environmental and health consequences of climate change, which disproportionately affect low-income countries and poor people in high-income countries, profoundly affect human rights and social justice. Environmental consequences include increased temperature, excess precipitation in some areas and droughts in others, extreme weather events, and increased sea level. These consequences adversely affect agricultural production, access to safe water, and worker productivity, and, by inundating land or making land uninhabitable and uncultivatable, will force many people to become environmental refugees. Adverse health effects caused by climate change include heat-related disorders, vector-borne diseases, foodborne and waterborne diseases, respiratory and allergic disorders, malnutrition, collective violence, and mental health problems (Levy & Patx, 2015).

Teaching students about climate justice is an important part of teaching about climate change because the social, economic, and other impacts on a substantial portion of our population are often overlooked. By learning about climate justice and becoming aware of how climate change affects some members of our communities, students will be better prepared to advocate for our government officials to do more for victims of climate change.  Climate change means different things to different people, but most can agree that fighting climate change and its adverse impacts (social, economic, health, etc.) is urgent, which is why teaching students about climate justice is so important!

Watch the YouTube videos below on climate change in the South African context, climate change and human rights, environmental justice and climate justice.

Climate change in South Africa: How Bad Can It Be?

The connection between climate change and human rights.

A brief history of environmental justice.

Environmental justice explained.

Climate justice is social justice.

Climate change, environmental justice and human rights.

The next session aims to support educators to teach about Social Justice, Human Rights and climate change effectively in their classrooms!