Fossil Fuel Industry Set to Argue for Dismissal of Landmark Climate Change Lawsuit Brought by 21 Youth
By Curtis Morrison
U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday from the U.S. government and the fossil fuel industry on their motions to dismiss a landmark constitutional climate change lawsuit.
The case has been brought before the court by 21 youth plaintiffs as well as climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, as guardian for future generations as well as his granddaughter and youth plaintiff Sophie. The youth's complaint itself is 95 pages, but boils down to a simple demand that the federal government cease conduct that promotes fossil fuel extraction and consumption, and instead develop and implement an actual science-based climate recovery plan. The complaint argues the youth have a fundamental constitutional right to be free from the government's destruction of their Earth's atmosphere.
The Department of Justice represents the U.S. government (using taxpayer dollars), while Sidley Austin LLP, a law firm with 1,900 lawyers, represents the fossil fuel industry. The latter's motion to intervene was granted by Judge Coffin in January.
In true David and Goliath form, the youth and Dr. Hansen will be represented by legal counsel coordinated and led by the small Oregon non-profit Our Children's Trust. The youth have received additional legal support through an amicus brief on behalf of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, representing 250 Catholic organizations and thousands of individuals, and the Leadership Council of Women Religious, representing more than 40,000 women religious. Additional amicus briefs supporting the youth have been filed by constitutional scholar John E. Davidson, former senior scientist and executive director of the defendant's Office of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Dr. Michael MacCracken, and Hansen himself, in his capacity as an climate expert.
But the legal support behind the youth is only the tip of the iceberg. They are also expecting moral support from hundreds of supporters, mostly students, traveling to Eugene, Oregon, for the hearing Wednesday. One group that has been instrumental in organizing the community support has been 350 Eugene, a group founded by environmentalist, author and journalist Bill McKibben.
“Students are both scared about the climate crisis and inspired by seeing other kids—especially plaintiffs they know from school or local clubs—take an action as bold as suing the government," Mary DeMocker, 350 Eugene's co-founder and creative director, said. "They are fascinated and want to march with them at our rallies and hear them speak in court, because they know plaintiffs amplify their own love—for animals, for the earth, for fairness—and their fear that their world is being destroyed by the adult recklessness."
The court's shorthand for the case, Juliana v. United States, refers to the now 19-year-old youth plaintiff listed first in the complaint, Kelsey Juliana. Here's a statement Juliana released on her Facebook wall:
“Our arguments are simple: We demand that the government we elected to represent its people act on the interests of the land and citizens instead of the interests of corporate industry. We, as youth, demand that our constitutional rights to life, liberty and property are upheld by the government and that they act to advert climate catastrophe by reducing carbon emissions and fazing out support of fossil fuels. We are youth fighting for our futures in court, securing fundamental rights for present and future generations. JOIN US! FOSTER THE MOVEMENT! 3/9/2016, 10am, Federal District Courthouse in Eugene, OR!"
In preparation for the expected attendance and interest in the case, the District Court plans to livestream the oral arguments into three overflow courtrooms in the same courthouse, as well as Courtroom 12A in Portland's Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.
During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.
What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.
By Matthew Savoca
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.
Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.
"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.
Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
By Patrick Rogers
If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.