American Kids Are Suing U.S. Government for Inaction on Climate Change

Categories: environment
Tags: law, climate change

What? In an unprecedented case and unlike what happened with previous climate-related lawsuits, a district Court of Oregon has recognized a group of 21 young Americans, ages 8 to 19, the merit to proceed with a lawsuit against the U.S. federal government in which they assert that "the government has known for decades that carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution has been causing catastrophic climate change and has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions". In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that the government has violated a public trust doctrine "by denying future generations’ essential natural resources" and is also violating their "protection rights embedded in the Fifth Amendment by "denying them protection afforded to previous generations and by favoring short term economic interest of certain citizens". They are asking the court to order the U.S. government to prepare a consumption-based inventory of US CO2 emissions and to implement an enforceable national remedial plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions.

So what? While the final result of this legal battle may take years, this could open the door for a flood of suits against governments around the world. Strictly on the legal side, we may have reached a point where plaintiffs are now able to bring evidence in front of a court to show the harm of climate change and the responsibility of governments as well as intensive carbon industries. By alleging rights protected under the Constitution it also eliminates any possibilities for legislation to stop or affect these legal actions and the outcomes.


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