Supreme Court Rules Trump Administration Can’t Stop Youth Climate Case
In a glimmer of hope for climate change litigation, the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration's attempt to block a ground-breaking lawsuit brought by 21 young people against the U.S. government for crafting policies that support climate-changing fossil fuels, The Huffington Post reported.
The high court ruled that the administration's motion to dismiss the case was "premature."
"This decision should give young people courage and hope that their third branch of government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, has given them the greenlight to go to trial in this critical case on their inalienable rights," Our Children's Trust Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel Julia Olsen said in a statement reported by The Huffington Post.
Our Children's Trust is the non-profit that helped the young people behind the case file the suit.
The ruling comes as historic cases around the country are determining what role the courts can play in responding to the climate crisis.
In the past two months, federal judges in New York and San Francisco have dismissed cases brought by cities suing oil companies for the cost of adapting to climate change.
In dismissing the cities' cases, the judges argued that the executive and legislative branches should determine climate policy, not the courts.
The children's lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, is different from the cities' suits in that it targets the government, not oil companies, for creating policies that encouraged climate change.
However, the government's lawyers have argued that it goes beyond the scope of the courts.
The administration argued that the trial judge who had permitted the case to proceed had acknowledged "a never-before-recognized fundamental right to a particular climate system that lacks any support in the Constitution, this court's precedents, or this nation's history and tradition," Bloomberg reported.
The young people's lawyers, in contrast, say the changes to the climate violate rights that are enshrined in the Constitution, since those changes "threaten the very foundation of life, including the personal security, liberties, and property," according to The Huffington Post.
The Supreme Court did caution in its ruling that the breadth of the lawsuit was "striking" and that the question of whether the matters it raised belonged in the courts "presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion," Bloomberg reported. The court also urged the trial judge to respond promptly to other government attempts to halt the case's progress.
As of now, though, the Supreme Court's ruling means the trial will still begin in U.S. District Court on October 29, 2018, something for which the young plaintiffs are grateful.
"The constitutional rights of my fellow plaintiffs and I are at stake in this case, and I am glad that the Supreme Court of the United States agrees that those rights should be evaluated at trial," 19-year-old plaintiff Victoria B. said in an Our Children's Trust press release. "This lawsuit becomes more urgent every day as climate change increasingly harms us. I have reaffirmed confidence now that all levels of the federal judiciary have ruled in our favor that there should be no more delay in getting to our trial."
The case was first filed in Oregon in 2015. The Obama administration moved to dismiss it in 2016, and the decision of an Oregon U.S. District Court judge to deny that motion is one the Trump administration continued to challenge, leading to Monday's Supreme Court ruling, Pacific Standard reported.
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As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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