Federal Court Decision Rules In First Lawsuit To Involve A Planet

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

1 thought on “Federal Court Decision Rules In First Lawsuit To Involve A Planet”

  1. Pretty cool. I know nobody likes the T word, but a little bitty carbon tax like the one in England would be really nice. It wouldn’t cost much at all, you know, unless you own a coal fired plant, or a coal mine.

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