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Climate Change

Published on April 15th, 2016 | by Michael Ricciardi

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Kids Win In Global Warming Lawsuit Against US Government

April 15th, 2016 by  


Originally published on Planetsave.

Twenty-one plaintiffs, ages 8 to 19, won in United States Federal District Court in Eugene, Oregon on behalf of future generations of Americans in a landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the Federal Government and the Fossil Fuel Industry. Photo credit: Our Children’s TrustJuliana v. U.S. Government

And the winners are … today’s children (the plaintiffs) … and future generations (the ultimate winners).

According to legal observers, it’s the first lawsuit to “involve a planet” …. But faithful readers of Planetsave will likely see that this legal case and argument is/was inevitable (and perhaps the ulterior reason that the pro-business GOP denies the science of anthropogenic climate change).

The lawsuit — brought by 21 young people aged 8 to 19 years old (as members of the advocacy group Our Children’s Trust) — as presented to the court makes so many rational and sensible points regarding the public trust (and whom is responsible for safeguarding our basic survival resources), that it’s a wonder that these exact arguments are just now coalescing (readers may recall a few earlier stirrings of these arguments, such as reported in this 2012 article).

“The future of our generation is at stake,” said 16-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett. “People label our generation as dreamers, but hope is not the only tool we have. I am a teenager. I want to do what I love and live a life full of opportunities. I want the generation that follows to have the same chance. I absolutely refuse to let our government’s harmful action, corporate greed, and the pure denial of climate science get in the way of that. If anything, I’m going to use my positive energy to show my government that I won’t let my world stop for them.”

There are a few notable ironies in the case, but perhaps the most glaring is the statement to the press by representatives of one of the lawsuit’s interested parties (i.e., the oil industry) that the decision is a “…direct, substantial threat to our businesses.” [source: Forbes Magazine].

The Oregon Federal court has essentially ruled that the US Government has failed in its public trust duties and to ensure protection for the plaintiffs regarding their 5th amendment (denying them “protections afforded to previous generations and by favoring short term economic interests of certain citizens”) and 9th amendment (via violating a public trust doctrine and “denying future generations essential natural resources”) rights.

Ultimately, the court’s decision rests upon the legally valid claim that “… such harms [from fossil fuel-driven climate change] have an alleged disparate impact on a discrete class of society.”… That is, the future well-being of the plaintiffs, and those generations that are to follow.

Here’s a link to the Our Children’s Trust press release.

And, if you love reading the legalese … here’s a link to the Oregon Federal Court’s decision (a PDF).

Photo Credit: Our Children’s Trust






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About the Author

Michael Ricciardi is a well-published writer of science/nature/technology articles as well as essays, poetry and short fiction. Michael has interviewed dozen of scientists from many scientific fields, including Brain Greene, Paul Steinhardt, Arthur Shapiro, and Nobel Laureate Ilya Progogine (deceased). Michael was trained as a naturalist and taught ecology and natural science on Cape Cod, Mass. from 1986-1991. His first arts grant was for production of the environmental (video) documentary 'The Jones River - A Natural History', 1987-88 (Kingston, Mass.). Michael is an award winning, internationally screened video artist. Two of his more recent short videos; 'A Time of Water Bountiful' and 'My Name is HAM' (an "imagined memoir" about the first chimp in space), and several other short videos, can be viewed on his website (http://www.chaosmosis.net). He is also the author of the (Kindle) ebook: Artful Survival ~ Creative Options for Chaotic Times



  • Carl Raymond S

    Bravo!

  • NRG4All

    Of course the problem now is nominating the ninth member to the Supreme Court. Obviously the Republicans will not allow any new member to the court until they can hope that they are back in power at the White House. Thus, this will all be for naught unless the electorate wises up and realizes as Bernie Sanders (and I guess Donald Trump too) has said that the system is rigged.

  • J.H.

    They need to file this in a class action suite with Exxon oil climate denial, an add all the children. This is great

  • Rikaishi Rikashi

    It amazes me that these arguments have not been used to stop fracking.

    • nakedChimp

      They will.. just takes time.
      Imagine slaves 200 years ago.. or the afro-americans just 100 years ago in the southern states of the USA.
      Or acid rain in the 1980s.
      It takes time for this (to raise awareness, to become mainstream, to make it a commonly expected ‘feature’) and that up there was the first step.

    • J.H.

      They can

    • super390

      There are going to be some amazing earthquake lawsuits until oil-bought state legislatures ban them.

  • Martin

    Well now we need law suits and court decisions like that in a number of other countries and that will speed up the much needed transition away from FF.
    For the sake of all of us, humans and all other life on this planet.

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