In what might be considered a surprising move to cynics the world over, Orgeon-based Judge Thomas Coffin has ruled that a group of 21 teenagers have the legal right to sue the Federal Government for environmental degradation brought on by climate change, and therefore their health and quality of life.
This case has been going on for a while, and let’s be real – these kids are all straight up UN candidates in the making working under a non profit think tank. These aren’t just your average box-wine drinking memelords who got fed up and went to court, we’re talking about embassy-faring, magazine-interviewing, intern-taking scrubbed faces, most likely operating under the heavy direction of politically involved parents for their entire lives. So there’s that. Judge Coffin also said in his ruling that he does not know if the courts have any role in determining the effectiveness of emission schemes.
But, Coffin ruled against a motion coming from both the Fed court and what thinkprogress.org refers to as “fossil fuel companies” to dismiss the case. So – a bunch of teenagers working under the name of a non-profit organisation have decided to sue the entire American government, retrospectively, for their damage to the environment and the implications it has on their future health, and the health of their children, not yet born. And at least one Federal Judge has determined that the case has all validity needed to proceed forward. There’s no word on the likelihood of their success, but American courts are a magical place where anything can happen (some of the time).
The lawsuit is the brainchild of Oregon’s “Our Children’s Trust,” informed by the Public Trust, a legal precedent and doctrine that features heavily in the Clean Water Act (currently relevant to the US too, in light of that whole messy Flint situation).
Coffin’s judgement is quoted on the OCT website at length, but summarised best with:
When combined with the EPA’s duty to protect the public health from airborne pollutants and the government’s public trust duties deeply ingrained in this country’s history, the allegations in the complaint state, for purposes of a motion to dismiss, a substantive due process claim.
Time can only tell what will happen with this one, and whether or not a bunch of fresh faces have any chance against a plethora of lawyers on retainer, but the fact that this case has been allowed to go forward is something of a landmark.
It’s an interesting precedent, however – America is the dominant Western country that we all despise, but always the biggest influence on Australia: so maybe, just maybe, this is the first step in getting some kind of serious in-Court discussion about climate change with at least implied accountability in Australia. After all, we have just signed off on a great big fucking mine essentially within the Barrier Reef sanctuary, despite ongoing coral bleaching and ocean acidification. We also fired our climate scientists, so there’s that too.