In a recent ruling by an Oregon Judge, a group of youngsters won a major battle in their continuing effort to sue the federal government over climate change. The Judge, Thomas Coffin, a Federal District Court Magistrate Judge, ruled against the federal government’s motion to dismiss the case, finding in favor of the 21 young plaintiffs who brought the suit.
The lawsuit is just one of the many efforts led by the Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, who filed similar petitions and lawsuits in every state in the country. Complaints allege that the United States Government has known for half a century that greenhouse gases and use of fossil fuels cause global warming and climate change, yet have done nothing about it.
“If the allegations in the complaint are to be believed, the failure to regulate the emissions has resulted in a danger of constitutional proportions to the public health” said the Judge, calling the lawsuit “unprecedented”.
The suit is based on the doctrine of public trust, similar to that of the Clean Water Act, under which governments must protect commonly held elements, including waterways and seashores for public use. This lawsuit argues that such protections should extend to the climate and atmosphere as well.
“This will be the trial of the century that will determine if we have a right to a livable future, or if corporate power will continue to deny our rights for the sake of their own wealth,” said Kelsey Juliana, lead plaintiff in the suit.
Three fossil fuel industry trade associations named as defendants in the suit have called the case a “direct substantial threat to their business.”