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International Law

Prof. John H. Knox - International Distinguished Visitor Lecture

April 17, 2017

Prof. John H. Knox of Wake Forest University School of Law spoke on the intersection of human rights and climate change at Lewis & Clark Law School in January 2017. Climate change has been called the greatest threat to human rights in the twenty-first century.  The rapidly warming climate is already contributing to floods in India, droughts in southern Africa, and typhoons in the Philippines, and is threatening to displace communities from the Arctic to the South Pacific. How can a human rights perspective help to combat its worst effects? The title of his talk, “The Implications of Human Rights Law for Addressing Climate Change”, addressed these issues.

Prof. John Knox is an internationally recognized expert on human rights law and international environmental law. In July 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed him to a three-year mandate as its first Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. In 2015, his role was extended for another three years as special rapporteur. In that position, he is preparing a series of reports to the Human Rights Council on the relationship of human rights and environmental protection. For more information about his work as the Independent Expert, visit

His recent scholarship addresses a wide variety of issues, including the human rights obligations of corporations, the application of human rights law to climate change, citizen suits in international environmental law, and the extraterritorial application of U.S. law. In 2003, he was awarded the Francis Deák Prize, established by the American Society of International Law to honor a younger author who has made a “meritorious contribution to international legal scholarship.” For four years, until 2005, he chaired a national advisory committee to EPA on the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the first regional environmental organization in North America. More recently, he has provided pro bono assistance to environmental groups and to the Maldives, a small island state in the Indian Ocean.

After graduating from Stanford Law School and clerking for Judge Joseph T. Sneed of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, John served as an attorney-adviser at the Department of State from 1988 to 1994. He spent four years in private practice in Austin, Texas and taught at Penn State for eight years before joining Wake Forest in 2006.