A federal appeals court has struck down a landmark climate change lawsuit brought against the federal government on behalf of children and young adults.
On Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco tossed the suit in a two-to-one majority decision, upending an earlier district court ruling to let the case go forward.
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After expressing that the plaintiffs “made a compelling case that action is needed,” Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz, writing for the majority, said that the issue of climate change is beyond the court’s scope.
“Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power. Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government,” Hurwitz wrote.
In 2015, 21 young people initiated a lawsuit, Juliana vs. the United States, against the government. The suit sought to put a halt to policies that incentivized the use of fossil fuels, which are a driving force behind climate change. Both the Obama and Trump administrations attempted to get the case thrown out.
The lone holdout on the court, Judge Josephine L. Staton, wrote an impassioned dissent while speaking to the urgency of the matter.
“In these proceedings, the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response — yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses,” Staton continued. “Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation.”
The case presented by the kids argues that the United States government has long supported fossil fuels through subsidies, allowing drilling on public lands as well as importing and exporting oil. The case said that government officials have “willfully ignored” the consequences of burning fossil fuels on the planet. They also claim the threat of climate change violates their rights to life, liberty, and property because it will cause more extreme weather events, droughts, famine and coastal flooding, just to name a few.
But this hurdle may not be the end of the case. Our Children’s Trust, which is a non-profit law organization representing the kids, said they plan to appeal.
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