The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Jessica Corbett
Michael Foster, the valve turner who temporarily halted the flow of tar sands oil in TransCanada's Keystone pipeline in October 2016, called for future actions to address the global climate crisis before he headed to prison, where he is expected to serve at least a year of his three-year sentence.
200+ Scientists Want Trump-Backer and Climate Denial Funder Rebekah Mercer Kicked Off Natural History Museum Board
By Julia Conley
More than 200 scientists have called on the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) to cut ties with board member Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire backer of President Donald Trump who has also funded "climate denial" groups in order to protect the fossil fuel industry's pollution-causing extraction of oil and gas.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
At the time, he was the top climate scientist at NASA, where he headed the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. We speak with world-renowned climatologist Dr. James Hansen on what role climate change played in unleashing Hurricane Harvey.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now!.
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.
At a time when humanity must reverse course before plunging over a climate cliff, the American public has elected a president who seems to have both feet on the fossil fuel accelerator. If there is a mechanism to force the Trump Administration to put the brakes on dirty energy policy, a lawsuit brought by 21 young people against the Obama administration may hold the key.
The federal court in Eugene, Oregon decided in favor of 21 youth plaintiffs on Thursday, in their "groundbreaking" constitutional climate lawsuit against President Obama, numerous federal agencies and the fossil fuel industry. U.S.
District Court Judge Ann Aiken rejected all arguments to dismiss raised by the federal government and fossil fuel industry, determining that the young plaintiffs' constitutional and public trust claims could proceed. Now, the 21 plaintiffs, who range in age from 9-20, are preparing for trial in what is believed to be a turning point in U.S. constitutional history.
"My generation is rewriting history," said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 16-year-old plaintiff and youth director of Earth Guardians. "We're doing what so many people told us we were incapable of doing: holding our leaders accountable for their disastrous and dangerous actions. I and my co-plaintiffs are demanding justice for our generation and justice for all future generations. This is going to be the trial of our lifetimes."
In determining the complaint to be valid, Judge Aiken's ruling contained these passages:
"Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law and the world has suffered for it."
"Although the United States has made international commitments regarding climate change, granting the relief requested here would be fully consistent with those commitments. There is no contradiction between promising other nations the United States will reduce CO2 emissions and a judicial order directing the United States to go beyond its international commitments to more aggressively reduce CO2 emissions."
"[The defendants and intervenors] are correct that plaintiffs likely could not obtain the relief they seek through citizen suits brought under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act or other environmental laws. But that argument misses the point. This action is of a different order than the typical environmental case. It alleges that defendants' actions and inactions—whether or not they violate any specific statutory duty— have so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs' fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty."
"This decision is one of the most significant in our nation's history," said Julia Olson, counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children's Trust.
"This is a critical step toward solution of the climate problem and none to soon as climate change is accelerating," said Dr. James Hansen, guardian in the case for all future generations and world-renowned climate scientist. "Now we must ask the court to require the government to reduce fossil fuel emissions at a rate consistent with the science."
The young plaintiffs sued the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their rights to vital public trust resources, by locking in a fossil-fuel based national energy system for more than five decades with full knowledge of the extreme dangers it posed.
"It's clear Judge Aiken gets what's at stake for us," said 17-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett, from White Plains, New York. "Our planet and our generation don't have time to waste. If we continue on our current path, my school in Manhattan will be underwater in 50 years. We are moving to trial and I'm looking forward to having the world see the incredible power my generation holds. We are going to put our nation on a science-based path toward climate stabilization."
This federal case 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.
An unprecedented legal case was filed today against the Norwegian government for allowing oil companies to drill for new oil in the Arctic Barents Sea. The plaintiffs, Nature and Youth and Greenpeace Nordic, argue that Norway thereby violates the Paris agreement and the people's constitutional right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations.
"We will argue in court that the Norwegian government has an obligation to keep its climate promises and will invoke the people's right to a healthy environment for ours and future generations. This is the People vs. Arctic oil," Ingrid Skjoldvær of Nature and Youth said.
An unprecedented legal case is filed against the Norwegian government for allowing oil companies to drill for new oil in the Arctic Barents Sea. Christian Åslund / Greenpeace
The lawsuit demands that Norway uphold its constitutional guarantee for future generations as it is written in article 112 of Norway´s Constitution:
"Every person has the right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources shall be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations which will safeguard this right for future generations as well. The authorities of the state shall take measures for the implementation of these principles."
Norway was among the first countries in the world to ratify the Paris agreement which is about to enter into force. By ratifying, Norway has promised to ambitiously reduce its emissions and help limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 C. At the same time Norway has opened up new oil license rounds, allowing the state-owned Statoil and other oil companies to start a major new exploration campaign in the Barents Sea, where they want to drill up to 7 new exploratory wells in 2017.
Audrey Siegl, a Musqueam woman from British Columbia, Canada, who is also a renowned public speaker, drummer and singer, stands in a Greenpeace rhib launched from the MY Esperanza holding her arms out in front her, defiantly signalling Shell's subcontracted drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, to stop.Greenpeace / Keri Coles
"Signing an international climate agreement while throwing open the door to Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous act of hypocrisy," Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace Norway said. "By allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic, Norway risks undermining global efforts to address climate change. When the government fails to redress this we have to do what we can to stop it."
The lawsuit can be seen in the context of a wave of climate justice cases around the world, from the Philippines to the U.S., and has the backing of a broad civil society coalition, fronted by young environmentalists, and supported by scientists, indigenous leaders, activists and public figures.
The 13 oil companies that have new license blocks in the Barents Sea are: Statoil (Norway), Capricorn and Centrica (UK), Chevron and ConocoPhillips (USA), DEA (Germany), Aker BP (Norway), Idemitsu (Japan), LUKOIL (Russia), Lundin Petroleum (Sweden), OMV (Austria), PGNiG (Norway/ Poland), Tullow (UK / Africa).
Watch the press conference from the Oslo Nobel Peace Center here:
Many hail the Paris agreement—set to cross the threshold this week to come into effect—as a panacea for global climate change. Yet tragically, this perspective neglects to take into account the scientific reality of our climate system, which tells a much different story.
Our latest research, Young People's Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions, appeared Monday as a "Discussion" paper in Earth System Dynamics Discussion, and outlines how—if national governments neglect to take aggressive climate action today—today's young people will inherit a climate system so altered it will require prohibitively expensive—and possibly infeasible—extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Global temperatures are already at the level of the Eemian period (130,000 to 115,000 years ago), when sea level was 6-9 meters higher than today. Considering the additional warming "in the pipeline," due to delayed response of the climate system and the impossibility of instant replacement of fossil fuels, additional temperature rise is inevitable.
Continued high fossil fuel emissions place a burden on young people to undertake "negative CO2 emissions," which would require massive technological CO extraction with minimal estimated costs of $104-$570 trillion this century, with large risks and uncertain feasibility.
Continued high fossil fuel emissions unarguably sentences young people to either a massive, possibly implausible cleanup or growing deleterious climate impacts or both, scenarios that should provide incentive and obligation for governments to alter energy policies without further delay.
The paper provides the underlying scientific backing for the Our Children's Trust lawsuit against the U.S. government, which argues that climate change jeopardizes the next generation's inalienable rights under the U.S. Constitution to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The paper offers an opportunity to examine the current state of the planet with respect to climate change. Four key takeaways include:
1. The Paris Climate Accord is a precatory agreement, wishful thinking that mainly reaffirms, 23 years later, the 1992 Rio Framework Convention on Climate Change. The developing world need for abundant, affordable, reliable energy is largely ignored, even though it is a basic requirement to eliminate global poverty and war. Instead the developed world pretends to offer reparations, a vaporous $100B/year, while allowing climate impacts to grow.
2. As long as fossil fuels are allowed to be held up as the cheapest reliable energy, they will continue to be the world's largest energy source and the likelihood of disastrous consequences for young people will grow to near certainty.
3. Technically, it is still possible to solve the climate problem, but there are two essential requirements: (1) a simple across-the-board rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies at the source, and (2) government support for RD&D (research, development and demonstration) of clean energy technologies, including advanced generation, safe nuclear power.
4. Courts are crucial to solution of the climate problem. The climate "problem" was and is an opportunity for transformation to a clean energy future. However, the heavy hand of the fossil fuel industry works mostly in legal ways such as the "I'm an Energy Voter" campaign in the U.S. Failure of executive and legislative branches to deal with climate change makes it essential for courts, less subject to pressure and bribery from special financial interests, to step in and protect young people, as they did minorities in the case of civil rights.
For a deeper dive, click here.
[Editor's note: Watch live today, Sept. 13, at 3 p.m. ET, the press event immediately following the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken on EcoWatch's Facebook page.]
A critical hearing in the landmark climate lawsuit brought by 21 youth plaintiffs across the U.S. will take place in just four days at a federal courthouse in Eugene, Oregon.
On Sept. 13, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken will hear oral arguments representing all of the parties on Juliana, et al. v. United States, et al, which was first filed in 2015 by the young plaintiffs, ages 8-19, and climate scientist Dr. James Hansen.
According to the nonprofit Our Children's Trust, "the plaintiffs are suing the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production and combustion of fossil fuels."
Judge Aiken will review an earlier decision from U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the same federal court. In April, Judge Coffin surprisingly ruled in favor of the young plaintiffs despite motions from the government and the fossil fuel industry to dismiss the case. The fate of the historic lawsuit is now in Judge Aiken's hands, who will determine whether the case will either proceed toward trial or to appeal.
One of the plaintiffs, Jayden, is a 13-year-old resident from Rayne, Louisiana. The hearing is particularly significant especially after last month's
climate change-fueled flooding destroyed most of Jayden's home.
"They called it a thousand-year flood, meaning it should only happen every thousand years or so," Jayden said. "But in my state—Louisiana—we have had that thousand-year flood and eight 500-year floods in less than two years. A few weeks ago, I literally stepped out of bed and was up to my ankles in climate change. Soon I will leave my home, which is still a mess—no walls, no carpet, even my little brothers toys were destroyed! But I feel like I have to go to court, because my little brother can't speak for himself, he's too little. But I can speak for him, and for everyone in my generation. It's time we were heard. It's time President Obama protects our future, and my little brothers future."
Representing the plaintiffs are attorneys Julia A. Olson of Wild Earth Advocates, Philip L. Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP and Daniel M. Galpern.
"My client Jayden, who is 13 years old, just survived a thousand-year flood event that devastated her home with sewage-contaminated rivers running through her bedroom and her community," said Olson, who is also the executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children's Trust.
"This is the ninth flood event that is supposed to happen once every 500 years or more to hit her region in two years, floods that would not happen but for climate change. Yet, the national energy policy of the U.S. is 'drill baby, drill.' And by 2040, fossil fuel consumption will still make up more than 75 percent of our energy supply compared to 80 percent today. According to these federal defendants, by 2040 our carbon dioxide emissions will at best be flatlining at dangerous levels. Make no mistake, the U.S. government has caused climate change and continues to promote a fossil fuel system that is violating the rights of these 21 young plaintiffs."
In his April decision, Judge Coffin indicated that since young people will face the brunt of global warming, they have the right to sue the government for climate justice. He wrote:
"The debate about climate change and its impact has been before various political bodies for some time now. Plaintiffs give this debate justiciability by asserting harms that befall or will befall them personally and to a greater extent than older segments of society. It may be that eventually the alleged harms, assuming the correctness of plaintiffs' analysis of the impacts of global climate change, will befall all of us. But the intractability of the debates before Congress and state legislatures and the alleged valuing of short-term economic interest despite the cost to human life, necessitates a need for the courts to evaluate the constitutional parameters of the action or inaction taken by the government. This is especially true when such harms have an alleged disparate impact on a discrete class of society."
"Jayden and her fellow plaintiffs will be entering the hearing Tuesday with momentum from legal victories from their peers," Our Children's Trust stated. "Aside from their own victory before Judge Coffin, they are emboldened by other youth plaintiff wins in state courts in Washington, Massachusetts and New Mexico. Not to mention other state and international legal actions underway, all with support from Our Children's Trust."
In June, plaintiff Xiuhtezcatl Martinez stopped by Real Time with Bill Maher to talk about the lawsuit and the importance of government action on climate.
"We have a right to a healthy atmosphere and [the government] is directly in violation of our public trust and of our constitutional right to a healthy atmosphere," the teenage environmental activist said. "[My generation] is calling out our leaders and reminding them they are not doing the job they are put here to do."