Climate Anxiety and Vulnerability: Litigating Climate Change under the Prohibition of Ill-Treatment

Human rights cases concerning the effects of climate change have recently begun to come before regional and international human rights bodies. At the European Court of Human Rights, three such applications are currently pending. In one of these cases, the Court raised Article 3 ECHR, the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Exploring climate change from the perspective of ill-treatment could mean capturing not only physical harms, but also the climate crisis’ psychological impacts. This means analysing how the Court, and human rights law more generally, captures experiences of anguish and suffering. In particular, this contribution will explore the issue of climate anxiety, i.e. the harm caused by worries about impending climate catastrophe, as a potential violation of Article 3. It will also consider how an experience of vulnerability can, under certain circumstances, violate that provision, and what this might mean in the climate context.