Judge Sides With Kids Suing The Government Over Climate Inaction: ‘These Kids Can’t Wait’

CREDIT: OUR CHILDREN’S TRUST
CREDIT: OUR CHILDREN’S TRUST

In the case of kids concerned about climate change versus the government, the kids keep racking up historic wins.

On Friday, a group of children suing the government for inaction on climate change scored a major victory, as a judge ruled that the Washington State Department of Ecology must deliver an emissions reduction rule by the end of this year. That decision follows another major win in mid-April, when an Oregon judge ruled that a similar lawsuit could go forward despite opposition from the fossil fuel industry.

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Previously, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill had denied the Washington state children’s petition, arguing that the Washington Department of Ecology was already in the process of creating an emissions reduction plan. In February, however, the Department of Ecology withdrew its draft plan, paving the way for Friday’s decision, which found that due to the “urgent situation” caused by climate change, “these kids can’t wait.” The decision ordered the Department of Ecology to create an emissions reductions plan by the end of the year.

“For the first time, a U.S. court not only recognized the extraordinary harms young people are facing due to climate change, but ordered an agency to do something about it

“For the first time, a U.S. court not only recognized the extraordinary harms young people are facing due to climate change, but ordered an agency to do something about it,” Andrea Rodgers, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney representing the youths, said in a press statement. “Ecology is now court-ordered to issue a rule that fulfills its constitutional and public trust duty to ensure Washington does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the planet.”

The Washington lawsuit is part of a wave of lawsuits filed across the country — since 2011, Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit that seeks to protect the earth’s natural resources for current and future generations, has filed similar lawsuits in every single state. Washington is the first state where the litigation has been successful.

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The lawsuits are based on the legal theory of atmospheric trust litigation, developed by University of Oregon law professor Mary Wood. Atmospheric trust law states that the atmosphere is a part of the public trust, the idea that the government must protect commonly held elements like navigable waters or submerged lands. If the atmosphere is also part of the public trust, the argument goes, then the federal government has an obligation to protect that atmosphere for future generations — which would ultimately compel the government to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Despite clear scientific evidence and judicial recognition of the urgency of the climate crisis, Washington and most governments across the U.S. and other countries are failing to take correspondingly urgent, science-based action,” Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children’s Trust, said in a press statement. “That failure unfairly consigns youth to a disproportionately bleak future against which they can only reasonably ask the courts to step in to address this most time sensitive issue of our time.”

Can This Group Of Kids Force The Government To Act On Climate Change?Climate by CREDIT: Our Children’s Trust Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez is not your average 15 year old. Speaking from…thinkprogress.org