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Using Human Rights Law to Address Climate Change - 29 May 2009

By Sarah Kuck
May 29, 2009 10:50 AM

What are the legal and human rights implications of climate change?

As the evidence becomes stronger and the science more serious, people in countries, companies, institutions and professions everywhere are taking up the issue of climate change and sounding the alarm.

Among these concerned global citizens are lawyers and legal professionals. To gather this community together, law students at the University of Washington organized a conference called Three Degrees: The Law of Climate Change and Human Rights Conference. On May 28 and 29, members of the legal community and others came together to further explore the possibility of using human rights law as a way to address climate change. According to the conference organizers, "the application of both codified and customary international and national human rights law will be critical in addressing the massive humanitarian crises ignored by technical market solutions to climate change and moderate political reforms."

I sat in on the first day of the conference and was amazed at the roster, which included Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland; Carolyn Raffensperger, the executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network; Dorothy McIntosh, the Climate and Carbon Business Development Manager for Mercy Corps; Daniel Magraw, the president and chief executive officer of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL); Stephen Humphreys, the research director at the International Council on Human Rights Policy (ICHRP), and many others.

The conference was organized to help attendees discuss how law will play a role in anticipating and responding to foreseeable human consequences of climate change. You can stream today's events live (Our own Alex Steffen will be speaking at 2:30 PST) or you can wait a few days for the organizers to place the videos from both days online.

Yesterday's speakers were diverse and knowledgeable about a range of topics. I truly do recommend watching the webcasts today and once they are available permanently. But click here for a few interesting thoughts and ideas I heard at the conference to whet your appetite.