Climate Lawsuits Aim to Hold Governments Accountable

Twenty-one of them from around the United States filed a “constitutional climate lawsuit” against the U.S. government in 2015. At the time, they ranged in age from 9 to 20. For the most part they were, and still are, people with next-to-zero voice in our formal political system. Even so, they’re out in front of a new offensive in the environmental struggle.

According to Our Children’s Trust, which is championing their cause, the kids’ assertion is that, “…through the government’s affirmative actions in causing climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.”

They’re holding us accountable. Other citizens of the planet are beginning to do the same.

There Are Costs

The truth of man-made climate change is no longer a matter of debate among the clear majority of scientists. The use of fossil fuels has released billions of tons of CO2 and other toxic gasses into the atmosphere. They, in turn, have caused Earth to warm at a dangerous, perhaps disastrous, rate.

Despite that, the U.S. president has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement signed by more than 190 countries, including the United States, to limit future emissions. Instead of being a world leader, we’re now in the company of Nicaragua and Syria as the only nations that refuse to participate.

This bolsters the kids’ argument. Once again, we’re shirking responsibility for protecting the only home we have, to the point where clean air, safe water and a livable planet are no longer a given for future generations. Instead, they’ll be dealing with more, and more extreme, weather events that cause billions in damage, including droughts that dry up entire regions and force people to flee.

Think there’s a refugee crisis now? Just wait. As the ol’ saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Needless to say, President Donald Trump is now listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, litigators around the world are smelling opportunity. There are costs to climate change, and there will be a lot more in the relatively near future. Somebody is going to have to pay. To figure out who will be picking up the tab, they’re headed down paths similar to the one our bunch of kids is hiking.

A recent headline in the Toronto (Canada) Star asked, “Could governments and oil companies get sued for inaction on climate change?” The story references potential litigation in Vancouver over the costs of erecting a storm surge barrier and climate cases already in progress in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Back To “It”

Here in the States, “it” is the legal battle headed for court in February 2018. “It” also is the mess the kids’ entire generation will need to deal with. Probably their kids and grandkids, too. Finally, “it” is taking responsibility for the causes of climate change and doing something about them.

Unfortunately, “it” for too many individuals, groups, companies, elected officials and governing bodies over the years has been a dangerous game of kick the can. We’ve booted it right on down the road for decades, collectively singing along the way, “It’s not gonna be my problem.”

“Leave it to a bunch of kids” once was reserved for young people who did wrong, like vandalizing buildings or walking away from a mess of beer cans in a pasture. In this case, “it” is still negative, but now it’s generations of adult leaders who have done wrong, either through action or inaction.

As far as the Paris Accord is concerned, I’m no lawyer, but I’m thinking the kids now have another stick they can use to beat the government over the head. A big one.

Speaking of the original environmentalist president, Theodore Roosevelt would have loved their fighting spirit. 

Bully!

MCFIV_Logo_small

Also published on Unheralded.Fish July 7, 2017, inform.com 7/8/17 and in The Forum print edition 7/10/17.


Martin C. Fredricks IV

Martin C. “Red” Fredricks IV here. I’m husband to an amazing woman who is also my best friend, dad to three outstanding kids, Fargoan (North Dakota, that is), proud introvert, veteran messaging strategist/copywriter, and big-time reader. As they say, if you're gonna write good stuff, you have to read good stuff. A ginger, too - ergo the "Red" - although some of it's going white. Cinnamon-Sugar, I call it. Tattooed to boot; seven so far. At age 54, I'm stilling crankin' AC/DC & Metallica, but now and again I spin some Eric Church and Black Uhuru, too. I love hanging out with my (much) better half, spending time with our kids, writing, hiking, riding my mountain bike and reading.

2 Comments

If Only We'd Listened to the Climate Scientist 33 Years Ago - IV Words - The Progressive Perspective · May 13, 2021 at 4:32 pm

[…] first became aware of climate-change lawsuits not long after the 21 kids filed Juliana. I’ve written about the case before, and about the new generation leading the climate-crisis struggle on the steps of parliaments, in […]

The New Leaders on Climate Change - IV Words · March 14, 2019 at 4:24 pm

[…] written about the lawsuit before, giving the kids behind it a shout-out. Today, once again, I […]

Let me know what you think!

Never Miss a Post!

Sign up today to get new IV Words right in your inbox. Unsubscribe anytime.

%d bloggers like this: