Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Law Suits to Block Climate Change

By Garry Rogers @Garry_Rogers

GR:  Lawsuits claiming governments must protect the environment including climate are gaining ground.  Perhaps they will add force to our concerns, petitions, and protests.  One case is pending at the U. S. Supreme Court. I know of a current case in Holland that will be heard by the district court in The Hague beginning today. Other international cases are listed here.

Here are some things you can do to support the litigation.

Law Suits to Block Climate Change

Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik have put the State of Oregon on trial for failing to take action to “protect the atmosphere required for our citizens’ survival.” Filed under the concept of Atmospheric Trust Litigation, Lane County Circuit Court Judge Karsten Rasmussen heard oral argument last week in Chernaik v. Brown after the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled the Circuit Court must decide whether the atmosphere is a public trust resource that the State of Oregon has a duty to protect. Photo credit: Todd Cooper

This federal case was filed by two students at the University of Oregon (Source:  Forbes).

Championed by Professor Mary Christina Wood in the Law School at the U of O, the concept of Atmospheric Trust Litigation reasons that a government elected by the people has a duty to protect the natural systems required for their survival.

“We are a Nation of Laws” has been heard over and over again since 2011, and for over 200 years, courts have affirmed that government is a trustee of the natural resources that we depend on, a doctrine known as public trust.

State appellate courts have allowed Atmospheric Trust Litigation lawsuits and administrative petitions brought by students to go forward in New Mexico, Texas, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania (Amicus briefs). Petitions on Atmospheric Trust Litigation are pending in the Philippines, the Ukraine, Uganda and the Netherlands.

What’s groundbreaking in Wood’s approach are three concepts:

  • – the public trust doctrine which holds that certain resources are owned by and available to all citizens equally
  • – the atmosphere is an asset in that trust because of its importance in the stability of every natural system
  • – the government as trustee has a restorative duty, which means not just preventing future damage, but repairing past harms.

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