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Appeals Court Kills ‘Climate Kids’ Lawsuit

— January 17, 2020

The single dissenting judge said the Constitution doesn’t “condone the Nation’s willful destruction.”

A federal appeals court has reluctantly dismissed a climate change lawsuit filed by almost two-dozen young adults across the country.

According to The Huffington Post, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 2-1 against the ‘Climate Kids.’ While acknowledging the gravity of man-made climate change, the judges decided the case lacks sufficient legal standing to proceed to trial.

“Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power,” Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote. “Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government.”

As the Post reports, the lawsuit—also known as Juliana v. U.S.—alleges that the federal government’s failure to prevent climate change has violated the young plaintiffs’ constitutionally-protected rights to life, liberty and property. While the suit was first filed against the Obama administration, it continued after Donald J. Trump took the Oval Office.

Air pollution at sunrise; image by SD-Pictures, via Pixabay, CC0.
Air pollution at sunrise; image by SD-Pictures, via Pixabay, CC0.

“We are suing because none of us and none of you have time to wait,” lead plaintiff Kelsey Juliana said in April 2017.

Interestingly, the U.S government didn’t specifically or consistently argue against climate science. Instead, the Justice Department suggested there’s no precedent, whether in history or law, for Juliana and her fellows to claim any fundamental right to a “livable climate.”

In his opinion, Hurwitz said the case left “little basis for denying that climate change is occurring at an increasingly rapid pace.”

Nevertheless, Hurwitz said that addressing global warming requires “complex policy decisions entrusted, for better or worse, to the wisdom and discretion” to Congress and the White House.

“That the other branches may have abdicated their responsibility to remediate the problem does not confer on Article III courts, no matter how well-intentioned, the ability to step into their shoes,” Hurwitz added.

But, as al-Jazeera notes, dissenting U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton said the Constitution doesn’t “condone the Nation’s willful destruction” through climate change inaction. Staton compared the government’s refusal to address global warming to the military shutting down defenses if a killer asteroid were approaching the earth.

“It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses,” Staton opined. “Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the nation.

“My colleagues through up their hands, concluding that this case presents nothing fit for the judiciary,” she said.

Staton noted that a lack of holistic, practical judicial remedy doesn’t mean the case should be considered wholly outside the courts’ purview.

“No case can singlehandedly prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change predicted by the government and scientists,” Staton wrote. “The mere that this suit cannot alone halt climate change does not mean that it presents no claim suitable for judicial resolution.”


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