"We are burning up our future - literally," said UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet about the world's climate crisis, which she calls a "rapidly growing and global threat to human rights".

The physician, former president of Chile, and now the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the Human Rights Council on the opening day of the body's September session in Geneva earlier this week.

"The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope," Dr. Bachelet said.  While we've seen the fires in the Amazon and Arctic, as well as record melting at both poles, the effects of global warming will be felt in every part of the planet - not just the wealthy nations that might be able to afford to mitigate the worst of it.  These effects will be "catastrophic" on "humanity as a whole", Bachelet said, and will be "suffered by the women, men, and children" - among them, many indigenous peoples.

"The (World Health Organization) expects climate change to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 - from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress alone," the High Commissioner said.  "In many nations, chaotic weather patterns and other manifestations of our environmental emergency are already reversing major development gains; exacerbating conflict, displacement and social tension; hampering economic growth; and shaping increasingly harsh."

She urged nations to take the offensive:  "The window of opportunity for action may be closing - but there is still time to act".  

"Effective action on climate requires bringing the uncommitted and unconvinced into a shared, just, and truly international effort," said Bachelet.  "Human rights can help galvanize that movement."