The Juliana vs. United States children’s climate change lawsuit is going to proceed, following a recent ruling from US Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Eugene, Oregon.
Since many reading this may not be aware of the background on this — a lawsuit brought by 21 young people (between the ages of 9 and 19), and supported by “Our Children’s Trust,” was filed against the federal government arguing that their rights as citizens (and guaranteed by the US Constitution) were being violated owing to the continued exploitation of fossil fuels.
The ruling by the federal judge, made on April 8, paves the way for the suit to move forward — and possibly make it all the way to the US Supreme Court.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Philip Gregory of the law firm Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy, of Burlingame, California, commented: “This decision is one of the most significant in our nation’s history. The Court upheld our claims that the federal government intensified the danger to our plaintiffs’ lives, liberty and property. Judge Coffin decided our Complaint will move forward and put climate science squarely in front of the federal courts. The next step is for the Court to order our government to cease jeopardizing the climate system for present and future generations. The Court gave America’s youth a fair opportunity to be heard.”
Gas 2 provides more:
Judge Coffin characterized the case as an “unprecedented lawsuit” addressing “government action and inaction” resulting “in carbon pollution of the atmosphere, climate destabilization, and ocean acidification.”
In deciding the case can proceed, Judge Coffin wrote: “The debate about climate change and its impact has been before various political bodies for some time now. Plaintiffs give this debate justiciability by asserting harms that befall or will befall them personally and to a greater extent than older segments of society.
“It may be that eventually the alleged harms, assuming the correctness of plaintiffs’ analysis of the impacts of global climate change, will befall all of us. But the intractability of the debates before Congress and state legislatures and the alleged valuing of short term economic interest despite the cost to human life, necessitates a need for the courts to evaluate the constitutional parameters of the action or inaction taken by the government. This is especially true when such harms have an alleged disparate impact on a discrete class of society.”
While this is certainly not bad news, one has to question if actions like this are the sort that will have a real effect on where things are headed. No complaints, though: it’ll be interesting to see what the national conversation is like if the suit manages to make it to the US Supreme Court.
Photo Credit: Our Children’s Trust