Founder and Director

Youth Climate Courts Director

Tom Kerns, emeritus professor of philosophy at Seattle College, works to bring human-rights norms to bear on environmental issues, especially on the climate crisis. Dr. Kerns developed and taught an innovative online course on Environment and Human Rights and is the Founder/Director of Environment and Human Rights Advisory. In 2015 he served on the drafting group for the international “Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change.” Dr. Kerns co-organized the 2018 International Tribunal on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change.

Bearing Witness: The Human Rights Case Against Fracking and Climate Change, (Oregon State University Press, 2021), co-edited with Kathleen Dean Moore, is based on the rich testimony, compelling arguments, and final Advisory Opinion of that Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change. The short film, “Bedrock Rights: A New Foundation for Global Action Against Fracking and Climate Change,” is based on this book and on the testimony and findings from the Tribunal.

The Youth Climate Courts movement, based as it is in human rights standards, emerged from the great success of that 2018 Tribunal and from the powerful Advisory Opinion that court issued several months later.

Youth Climate Courts: How You Can Host a Human Rights Trial for People and Planet (Routledge 2022).

Dr Kerns’s Scholarship (sample list below) includes books and articles that bring human rights norms to bear on critical environmental issues.

He lives in a small village on the central Oregon coast where, when not out on the beach, he reads, writes and works with the Youth Climate Courts initiative.


Several of Dr Kerns’s articles and books explore the bearing of human rights norms on health, environment and climate issues.

Thomas A Kerns, Youth Climate Courts: How You Can Host a Human Rights Trial for Peopl and Planet (Routledge 2022).

Thomas A Kerns and Kathleen Dean Moore, editors, Bearing Witness: The Human Rights Case Against Fracking and Climate Change, Oregon State University Press, 2021

“‘The Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change’: A New Legal Tool for Global Policy Change,” Kirsten Davies, et alJournal of Human Rights and the Environment (8.2), K Davies, S Adelman, A Grear, C Magallanes, T Kerns, S Rajan, 2017

“An International Tribunal on the Human Rights Impacts of Fracking: Structure, Grounding and Purposes,” Tom Kerns, in New Frontiers in Environmental Constitutionalism, pp 48-61 United Nations Environment Programme, May 2017

“Why a Human Rights Tribunal?,” Tom Kerns, in Minding Nature, June 2017

“Does Fracking Violate Human Rights?”  Thirteen invited papers by recognized experts in the “Questions for a Resilient Future” series at The Center for Humans and Nature, Spring 2017

"Schopenhauer’s Mitleid: Environmental Outrage and Human Rights," Chapter 8 in Thought, Law, Rights and Action in the Age of Environmental Crisis, A Grear and E Grant (eds), Elgar, 2015; first published (2013) 5/3 Oñati Socio-Legal Series 931–52.

"A Human Rights Impact Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing in the United Kingdom," A Grear, E Grant, T Kerns, K Morrow, D Short,  commissioned by the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, 2014

A Human Rights Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas in New York State, commissioned by Earthworks, 2011

"Ten practical advantages of a human rights approach to environmental advocacy," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Fall 2013.

Report of the March 2006 People’s Inquiry into the Impacts and Effects of Aerial Spraying Pesticide over Urban Areas of Auckland, coauthor; sole author of Part III “Ethics and Human Rights Issues,” October 2007.

Environmentally Induced Illnesses: Ethics, Risk Assessment and Human Rights, MacFarland, 2001

Ethical Issues in HIV Vaccine Trials, St Martin’s Press Macmillan Ltd, in the UK, 1997.

Jenner On Trial: The Ethics of Vaccine Research in the Age of Smallpox and the Age of AIDS, University Press of America, 1997.

bob kerns photography
bob kerns photography