VANDERHEIDEN SJ. Taiwan Human Rights Journal. 3 (3) (2016): 3-26.
Among the challenges posed by human-caused climate change are issues of justice and democracy, in how the environmental problem is expected to affect human social and economic systems and in the response taken by states and the international community to mitigate the problem. While unmitigated climate change unjustly harms the most vulnerable and widens existing unjust inequalities, programs to mitigate climate change can also be just or unjust, and so must take pains to avoid the latter. Likewise with democracy, as the failure to adequately respond to climate change may intensify scarcity and in so doing undermine new or established democracies, and cooperative efforts to control climate change are likely to be more responsive to the interests of the many if they are informed by democratic ideals and principles. Both sets of issues can constructively be theorized in terms of human rights, which seek to guarantee human interests in a safe and sustainable environment as well as those to self-determination and popular participation in major decisions that shape social and economic life, and which help to link the demands of justice and democracy in common cause. Here, I shall examine several such issues of justice and democracy, in the contexts of both domestic and international climate change governance, grounding these imperatives where appropriate in a human rights framework.