In July UN's Human Rights Council (OHCHR) passed Resolution 50/9 stating that climate change threatens the human right to food; in September, UN’s 76th General Assembly passed Resolution 300 recognizing “the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right”. On Nov 29, 18 countries presented a draft Resolution to the International Court of Justice seeking an advisory opinion:

Having regard to the applicable treaties, including the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and rules of general international law, including the duty of due diligence, the rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the principle of prevention of significant harm to the environment, and the duty to protect and preserve the marine environment,

(1) What are the obligations of States under the above-mentioned body of international law to ensure the protection of the climate system and other parts of the environment for present and future generations;

(2) What are the legal consequences under these obligations for States which, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant harm to the climate system and other parts of the environment, with respect to:

(a) Small island developing States and other States which, due to their geographical circumstances and level of development, are injured or specially affected by or are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change?

(b) Peoples and individuals of the present and future generations affected by the adverse effects of climate change?
 

These moves have no “teeth” by themselves – they don’t create legal obligations per se. However, they do create some sort of salience and influence legal arguments around the globe, providing lawyers and politicians with arguments in legal suits.

                For instance, in August Brazilian Supreme Court stated that the Paris Agreement has, in Brazilian legal system, the status of a human rights treaty – which, given the court’s precedents, implies it is placed higher than statutory law (though lower than the Constitution). This allowed the court to condemn the federal government for inaction in protecting the Amazon forest.

                So, my question is: would it make sense to invoke a similar rationale in matters of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or maybe risky reserch - like gain-of-function research? 

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I'm concerned that this trend could dilute the significance of human rights.

If everything is considered a human rights issue, it may become challenging to focus on the most important issues. We need to carefully consider what falls under the umbrella of human rights and prioritise the protection of those rights.

I partially agree. This "human rights inflation" has been a powerful critique against legal activism in jurisprudence. I'm afraid UN should be way more specific concerning what could be retarded as a violation of such rights. On the other hand, if one truly believed that, e.g., nuclear weapons proliferation risks leading to a global catastrophe, then why couldn't one say that it risks violating human rights, too - just like, e.g., failing to deter torture? It's certainly not a matter of impact... is it a matter of probability?

BBC News, March 2029:

"As fears grow of imminent war in Taiwan due to the massive military buildup on mainland China, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporations' plans to build a new fab for their highly advanced chips in Britain received an unexpected setback. A judge agreed with the arguments advanced in a judicial review brought by a local campaign group opposed to the factory's construction, Residents Against Potential Evils, that the government's Planning Inspectorate had not sufficiently considered the potential existential risks of manufacture of highly advanced chips at that plant, which could be used to bring out the development of Artificial General Intelligence – a technology that some fear could end the human race. The success of the appeal means an effective restart to the planning application process. TSMC's representatives confirmed to the BBC that the timeline of building the fab has been put back at by at least five years...."

So... your point is that it could lead to justices (i) curtailing AI development & (ii) risking the whole semiconductor industry world wide by locking it in Taiwan? That's a long slippery slope (but you could say it's not so much longer than climate change leading to famine...) First, I'm not sure if I want that Taiwan becomes "replaceable" as a leading manufacturer, as it'd make it more likely to be invaded (though decreasing the odds of nuclear powers confrontation). but that's beyond the point. Second... yeah, I think there's a risk of abuse in infl... (read more)

2
Sabs
1y
The endless creation of new rights - and corresponding duties for public bodies to attend to such rights – is a giant gun pointed at the head of the West. Most notably, the various rights we have created around environmental review and consultation are strangling our ability to build any infrastructure. This alone  is largely responsible for the soaring constructions costs of everything from American highways to British railway lines (the disease seems to be worse in common law countries). Vide Brookings: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/WP54_Brooks-Liscow_updated.pdf Create a new right for people  not to die by AGI or whatever and it will be relentlessly abused in all sorts of entertaining ways for people to block development.
3
Ramiro
1y
Actually, the report you linked blames it mostly on increases in income and housing prices. And about "citizen voice": I think that's a problem that countries without rule of law don't have... but then they have other obstacles for development. But most of all, I'm sorry, but I'm sort of confused about what exactly is your point here - if, e.g., it's about legal interferences in general, or only about rights-based litigation, or about how those interferences make us lag behind those who don't have it. More precisely, I'm in doubt between something like: i. "we shouldn't create legal interferences with tech development, they are inefficient and slow down economic development - and there will be less welfare in the long-run"; ii. "we shouldn't create legal interferences with tech development, otherwise we'll be surpassed by countries and organizations who don't mind about them"; iii. "we shouldn't create rights-based legal interference with tech development, as it increases litigaton and is more inefficient than top-down regulation, or than self-regulation". I disagre with (i), because I think that the costs of slowing down c-risks are worth it. Perhaps you disagree with me, but then I see no point in discussing it here (I mean, my question assumes that are willing to incur some costs to mitigate c-risks). I sort of disagree with (ii), because I think that "hawkish arms-race" reasoning is precisely one of the main factors driving c-risks up; on the other hand, I have to reckon the risk of playing dove and of "regulatory arbitrage":  regulation is ineffective if companies can just move to somewhere where it doesn't apply (or if they lose marketshare to companies in those places), and the risks remain. But there might be ways to mitigate this problem - e.g., EU taxing imports to prevent carbon leakage. I feel tempted to agree with (iii); but then, I'm not sure if that's an option at all, at least for now. Quite the opposite: top-down regulation will often come aft