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This Supreme Court Decision Is the Best News of the Weekend
It was a good weekend for justice in America, which isn't something we get to say very often these days. That's because Friday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court kicked it off with a hopeful decision: The Trump administration can't stop the historic youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States from going to trial.
Our Children's Trust, the organization supporting the young people behind the case, summed up the mood with a tweet featuring a quote from 22-year-old plaintiff Kelsey Juliana: "Stay with us, in hope and in the pursuit of justice."
The lawsuit was first filed back in 2015 on behalf of 21 young people who argue that their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property have been violated by the government's scandalous inaction on climate change. In a year of historic wildfires and hurricanes, it's pretty easy to see where they're coming from. It's also easy to see their argument had first the Obama administration and now the Trump administration spooked. Both administrations tried multiple times to stop the case from going to trial.
"We've been confident throughout this case that we would get to trial, and I believe we will get to trial," Our Children's Trust executive director and attorney in the case Julia Olson told The Washington Post. "We have overcome everything the government has thrown at us. It is not luck. It is the strength of the case and the strength of the evidence and the strength of the legal arguments we are making."
This most recent attempt by the Trump administration to block the case was a nail-biter, though, because the Supreme Court actually delayed the start of the trial, which had been set for Oct. 29, while they considered it.
This was alarming because the Supreme Court had rejected a similar bid by the administration to block the case in July. But between July and October one important thing had changed. Justice Anthony Roberts had retired and Justice Brett Kavanaugh had taken his place.
EcoWatch explained at the time why this was troubling:
Kennedy was a swing voter on environmental issues who sometimes ruled in favor of increased regulations despite his conservative credentials. Kavanaugh's record is much more consistently anti-regulation when it comes to environmental cases. He also lied during the confirmation hearings, presenting his past rulings as more environmentally friendly than others familiar with the cases said they were. After Kennedy announced his retirement, Harvard law professor Richard Lazarus worried a more conservative court might make it harder for private citizens to sue the government over climate change.
But for now it is unknown how Kavanaugh's presence on the court impacted its decision to let the case proceed. Justice Clarence Thomas and Trump's other appointee Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have sided with the administration and blocked the case, but the others kept mum on how they voted.
The Supreme Court isn't necessarily gung-ho about the legal arguments made in Juliana v. United States. It acknowledged that the case was "based on an assortment of unprecedented legal theories," but ultimately ruled that government should seek relief from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit first.
However, in good news for the young plaintiffs, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also denied the administration's attempt to stop the case on Friday. The plaintiffs immediately filed a request in the District Courts to begin the process of getting the trial back on schedule, and hopefully they will get their day in court soon.
In a full quote from the Our Children's Trust press release, Kelsey Juliana expressed both the frustration and worry caused by the constant delays, as well as the admirable persistence she and the other plaintiffs demonstrate as the fight for a better future for all of us:
Today we move forward. I want to trust that we are truly on track for trial without having further delays, but these defendants are treating this case, our democracy, and the security of mine and future generations like it's a game. I'm tired of playing this game. These petitions for stay and dismissal are exhausting. To everyone who has invested in this case, to those who've followed along our journey for the past three years and counting: stay with us, in hope and in the pursuit of justice.
Fight on, Kelsey! We'll stay with you!
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.