Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019

How to Kids' Lawsuit Could Upend U.S. Climate Rules

As the Earth grows hotter, the young people face decades of environmental disruption. A group of teenagers has sued the U.S. government because it has not done enough to protect future generations from climate change. The novel case has made it possible If the teens prevail, the government could be forced to create a plan to cut greenhouse gases more extensively than anything it's done before.

1. What grounds are there for a lawsuit?

The group says the U.S. government has violated their constitutional rights to a global warming. They also argue the atmosphere is part of the public trust that the government must maintain for its citizens.

2. What makes it novel?

If the court rules in favor of the kids' constitutional claims, it would be a new climate-based fundamental right. Supporters of the lawsuit sometimes compare those claims to Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 case in which the Supreme Court recognized the fundamental right to marry extended to same-sex couples. Climate lawsuits using the public trust doctrine have become more common in the United States.

3. What is 'public trust'?

Under the public trust doctrine, the government holds essential natural resources, such as land, water, and wildlife, in trust for its citizens. Climate litigators, including the kids in this case, argue that should include the atmosphere.

4. Who are these young people?

A group of 21 plaintiffs, now ranging in age from 11 to 22, brought the lawsuit in 2015 against the administration of President Barack Obama. Many of the kids were involved in the state of affairs and activism. One plaintiff is the granddaughter of well-known climate scientist James Hansen. The group has the backing of our Children's Trust, which has brought a number of similar U.S. climate lawsuits to the state and supported litigation in Asia, Africa and Europe.

5. How has the U.S. government responded?

The Obama administration tried to get the box dismissed. Before Obama left office, the administration submitted a response to the court agreeing with a view of climate change. President Donald Trump's administration, which inherited the following, has also tried to keep it from heading to trial. The government argues the case would be violating separation of powers by the term to dictate climate policy, which it says is squarely in the purview of the executive branch.

6. How have judges ruled so far?

Oregon District Judge Ann Aiken repeatedly has denied the government's request to dismiss the case, ruling the issue of a constitutional right to a healthy environment. Both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco and the U.S. When the Supreme Court is deferred to the Ninth Circuit in November, it must be considered as warranted. An opinion from the Ninth Circuit is forthcoming. Judge Aiken said she was prepared to promptly schedule a trial date the Ninth Circuit lifts her hold on the suit.

7. What might happen at a trial?

The government could find its way to the scientific consensus about climate change. In May, Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, turned down an opportunity to lead a team of researchers to testify on behalf of the government. And the government's own scientists can not get on board. Thirteen federal agencies released a report in November 2011

8. What happens if the government loses?

The government could have developed a comprehensive policy to address greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. The court could have a specific emissions in line with the climate science presented by the kids. The plaintiffs also want a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels that could include ceasing federal leasing and support for fossil energy projects. Criticism can be made in the face of a threat to the environment.

To contact the reporters on this story: Abby Smith in Washington at Kartikay Mehrotra in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessica Coomes at Anne Cronin

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P.


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