Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust
By Fran Korten
On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.
Left to right, attorney Andrea Rodgers, Juliana youth plaintiff Aji Piper, lead counsel Julia Olson and Juliana youth plaintiff Hazel Van Ummersen, walk to a court hearing in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4.
Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust<p>Rodgers: The court doesn't look to what's going on outside the courtroom in order to render a legal decision. But the courts are also made up of judges who are human and aware of the world around them. They understand when there is societal change going on. You see that with the gay marriage decision. I don't think that decision would have happened without the "Love Is Love" and other campaigns. Same thing with Brown v. Board of Education and the bus boycotts. So the movements outside of the courtroom are critical. We have three branches of government, and they all know what the other is doing. But I wouldn't go so far as to say that the courts are influenced directly. It's really much more indirect, long term and bigger picture.</p><p><span></span>Korten: If you do go to trial, you will bring testimony from many experts. But much of that information is already in the news, in academic papers and reviewed in governmental panels. Is there any special value to having it aired in court?</p><p>Rodgers: Absolutely. Because in court, it's sworn testimony under oath. Scientific testimony has to go through a very rigorous process to be admissible in a court of law. Junk science is thrown out or considered unreliable. There are scientific standards for what's admissible in a court of law. The person delivering testimony has to be considered an expert in the fields in which they're testifying. There's no fake news in the court because that's considered perjury. And then the witness is cross-examined. So it gives the other side an opportunity to poke holes in their testimony and to bring in other conflicting information.</p><p>We have 23 expert witnesses. People like James Hansen, Joseph Stiglitz, Frank Ackerman, Harold Wanless, Steve Running, Hugh Goldberg, Pete Erickson and [James Gustave] Speth, all of whom are the top experts in their fields. It'll be the trial of the century.</p><p>Korten: What is the best outcome you could imagine from this suit?</p><p>Rodgers: A court order recognizing that these youth have constitutional rights and that the government is violating those constitutional rights. And then a court order directing the defendants—the government agencies—to come up with a plan to bring the energy system into constitutional compliance.</p><p>While the courts can order the government to make a plan, they don't write policies. That's why things like the Green New Deal and other climate change policies are so critical. We have to have the policies ready because our government is not going to be quick to develop a remedial plan.</p><p>Korten: What can ordinary citizens do to support this case?</p>
Attorney Andrea Rodgers being interviewed at a press conference on the steps of the Miami Dade County Courthouse in 2018. Rodgers was representing Florida youth in a climate change lawsuit against the state of Florida.
Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust<p>Rodgers: On the Our Children's Trust website, there are toolkits so that supporters can get engaged and support the youth plaintiffs. You can teach young people about the suit and their constitutional rights in school. There are ways to utilize the litigation to galvanize members of the community in support of science-based climate action. There are people getting congressional and other elected leaders to recognize that there's a fundamental right to a stable climate system.</p><p>Korten: You recently spoke at the Bainbridge Island Climate and Energy Forum in Washington state. How do you see the value of local actions such as that one?</p><p>Rodgers: Local action is the primary way that people in the community are learning about climate change. This kind of local forum can keep people aware of policy efforts and making phone calls on legislation or learning about election issues. The other thing a local forum does is to bind us together as a community. Climate change is a very difficult issue. It's easy to throw up your hands and give up. When you're working on this issue within a community, that's so much more powerful. It keeps you going <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/5-ways-communities-are-coping-with-climate-anxiety-20180822" target="_blank">when you feel frustrated or disheartened</a>. You have that community to lean on.</p><p>Korten: You are a mother. How do you <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/talking-to-kids-climate-change-advice-20190307" target="_blank">help your children understand</a>what you're fighting for without scaring them?</p>
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.
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Ten families from Fiji, Kenya and countries across Europe who are already suffering the effects of climate change filed a case against the EU Wednesday in a bid to force the body to increase its commitments under the Paris agreement, AFP reported.
King County, which covers the Seattle metropolitan area, followed the lead of 10 other cities and counties in the U.S. when it filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the world's five largest oil companies for damages incurred by climate change, a county press release announced.
All of the 197 signatories of the landmark accord now have at least one national law or policy on climate change, an analysis published Monday by the London School of Economics (LSE) found.
The scandal-plagued head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says he's not sure whether "human activity ... is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see." The president has moved to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. And climate-science deniers and skeptics control Congress.
Juliana v. United States was filed in 2015 on behalf of 21 plaintiffs who ranged between 8 to 19 years old at the time. They allege their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government's creation of a national energy system that causes dangerous climate change.
By John Light
Editor's note: Watch the oral arguments live beginning at 1 p.m. EST above.
Three judges in San Francisco potentially have the power to decide how the U.S. government deals with climate change. Monday, 21 young Americans will make the case that President Trump has endangered their future by aiding and abetting the dirty industries responsible for the global crisis. And they will argue that they can hold him legally accountable.
There has been a significant development in the constitutional climate change lawsuit so far successfully prosecuted by 21 youth plaintiffs: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to hear oral argument over whether the Trump administration can evade trial currently set for Feb. 5, 2018. Oral arguments will be heard before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Dec. 11 and can be watched on a live stream beginning at 10 a.m. PST.
By Tim Radford
One of the world's most famous climate scientists has just calculated the financial burden that tomorrow's young citizens will face to keep the globe at a habitable temperature and contain global warming and climate change—a $535 trillion bill.
And much of that will go on expensive technologies engineered to suck 1,000 billion metric tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air by the year 2100.
The Trump administration filed a motion Tuesday seeking an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on a federal judge's Nov. 10, 2016 order in Juliana v. United States. The Trump administration also filed a motion to delay trial preparation until after its appeal is considered.
Kids Name Trump as Defendant in Landmark Climate Case https://t.co/ONB3XOIRo5— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@Robert F. Kennedy Jr)1486750403.0
Further, the Trump administration asked for expedited review of both motions, arguing the plaintiffs' Jan. 24 letter requesting the government to retain records relating to climate change and communications between the government and the fossil fuel industry was overly burdensome. The excerpt from the government's stay motion said:
"Plaintiffs … intend to seek discovery relating to virtually all of the federal government's activities relating to control of CO2 emissions ... Compounding the United States' burdens, Plaintiffs have indicated that their intended discovery has a temporal scope of more than sixty years ... Absent relief, there will most certainly be depositions of federal government fact witnesses ... that will explore the extraordinarily broad topic of climate change and the federal government's putative knowledge over the past seven decades."
Yet, in another complex case regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and BP, the U.S. produced more than 17 million pages of documents from April to September of 2011. Plaintiffs maintain that their requests are limited, reasonable and aimed at getting to trial this fall.
Appeals typically do not occur until a trial court has issued final rulings following the presentation of evidence, but the Trump administration is asking federal Magistrate Judge Coffin to exercise his discretion to allow the case to proceed to the Court of Appeals before final judgment.
Attorneys representing fossil fuel industry defendants are expected to file papers supporting the government's motions on Friday.
"The Trump administration argues that this is a big case and so the burdens of preserving government documents warrant an expedited review," Julia Olson, plaintiffs' counsel and executive director of Our Children's Trust, said. "They're right. It is a big case. We have a classic example of the government's misplaced priorities: They prefer to minimize their procedural obligations of not destroying government documents over the urgency of not destroying our climate system for our youth plaintiffs and all future generations?"
In the government's answer to the youth plaintiffs' complaint, they admitted that "the use of fossil fuels is a major source of [carbon dioxide] emissions, placing our nation on an increasingly costly, insecure and environmentally dangerous path."
The case was brought by 21 young plaintiffs who argue that their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government's creation of climate danger. Judge Ann Aiken's November order denied motions to dismiss brought by both the Obama administration and fossil fuel industry defendants.
"This request for appeal is an attempt to cover up the federal government's long-running collusion with the fossil fuel industry," Alex Loznak, 20-year-old plaintiff and Columbia University student, said. "My generation cannot wait for the truth to be revealed. These documents must be uncovered with all deliberate speed, so that our trial can force federal action on climate change."
Victory for America's Youth: Federal Judge Rules Climate Lawsuit Can Proceed https://t.co/iXxiZvf5Nf @climatecouncil @energyaction— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478913606.0
Other pre-trial developments
- During Wednesday's telephonic case management conference between attorneys for the parties and Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) took the view that the Trump administration, will have the opportunity to use executive privilege to prevent the release of evidence in the possession of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
- DOJ attorneys said they recently informed the White House that NARA was in the process of gathering documents requested by the plaintiffs. It is the DOJ's view that former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, will have the opportunity to bar release of the records of their respective administrations, but President Trump will ultimately have the authority to bar release of any and all NARA records.
- The next Juliana v. United States case management conference with Judge Coffin is scheduled for April 7 and will be telephonic.
- Attorneys for youth plaintiffs are in the process of compiling a list of prospective witnesses to be deposed, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and expect to provide that list to defendants next week.
Youth Seek Testimony From Exxon's Rex Tillerson in Federal Climate Lawsuit https://t.co/c8kaz4lKkM @ClimateDesk @globalgreen— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483066833.0
Juliana v. United States is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children's Trust, seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.