“Climate activists have shamelessly stooped to using children for their PR efforts. Shame on these parents for allowing their kids to be used as cheap publicity pawns in the climate debate.”
Feds Urge Court To Dismiss ‘Children’s’ Lawsuit Backed By Deep-Pocketed Foundations
A test case for a national effort to bring so-called “children’s” lawsuits backed by deep-pocketed philanthropic foundations in more than a half dozen states reached federal court Monday.
Underwritten by several foundations, including the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and with most of the 21 young people who filed the lawsuit in attendance, the plaintiffs argued for the case to move forward to trial.
“Children are disproportionately experiencing the impacts of climate change, and will going forward,” said Julia Olson, Executive Director of Our Children’s Trust. Allowing the case to continue, Olson argued, would allow “these young people [to] present their historic and scientific evidence and make their case.”
Federal lawyers asked the court to halt the suit, calling all aspects of the case “unprecedented.”
“It is really extraordinary. Plaintiffs seek unprecedented standing to pursue unprecedented claims in pursuit of an unprecedented remedy,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eric Grant told the three-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The three-member panel includes two Clinton appointees and a Reagan appointee.
All three judges expressed skepticism of the lawsuit’s potential for success to varying degrees, though the Clinton-appointed judges—Judge Marsha Berzon and Chief Judge Sidney Thomas—appeared hesitant to grant the administration’s lawyers’ request to halt the lawsuit before reaching trial.
Dr. James Hansen, former director of the U.S. NASA Goddard Space Institute, also attended the proceeding. Hansen helped connect Olson with another child plaintiff previously, when Olson was looking to find children who would act as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against government agencies. Hansen, inspired by his own grandchildren, believed that a turn to the courts would provide relief.
“The judicial branch is much less influenced by special interests such as the fossil fuel industry,” Hansen told The Atlantic in 2012.
Olson’s inspiration for inviting children to bring lawsuits stems from her colleague Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon, who first introduced “Atmospheric Trust Litigation” as a brand of the public trust doctrine in law.
In a 2012 report, “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages: Lessons from Tobacco Control” issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Climate Accountability Institute, Wood outlined “her involvement with so-called atmospheric trust litigation, a legal strategy she pioneered that is now unfolding in all 50 states. The goal of the litigation—to force massive reforestation and soil carbon sequestration that would return the planet to a sustainable level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (350 parts per million)—is grounded in the internationally recognized principle known as the Public Trust Doctrine, first enunciated by the Roman Emperor Justinian.”
“Under this doctrine, a state or third-party corporation can be held liable for stealing from or damaging a resource—in this case, the atmosphere—that is held as a public trust. The beneficiaries in the case are citizens—both current and future—who claim that the defendants (the state or federal government or third-party corporations) have a duty to protect and not damage that resource, which they oversee or for which they bear some responsibility,” the report’s authors wrote.
“Wood noted that this legal action has several promising features: it is being brought by children, can highlight local impacts of climate change because it is being brought in every state, and is flexible enough to be brought against states, tribes, the federal government, or corporations,” the report continued.
A landmark 2009 lawsuit brought against utilities by six states was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court in a unanimous decision in 2011. The nation’s highest court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency held the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, not federal judges. This reversed a lower court decision that would have allowed the lawsuit to proceed to trial.
“In a world filled with silly, frivolous, and undeserving lawsuits, these plaintiffs take the cake. It is difficult to imagine one that—to even the lay person on the street—is more ridiculous,” said William Perry Pendley, President of Mountain States Legal Foundation. “We have confronted and defeated similar claims in Colorado where one plaintiff said she had standing because her grandchildren would no longer be able to ski in Colorado. There are much better things for federal courts to do than hear foolish lawsuits like this. Let us hope the Ninth Circuit does the right thing,” Pendley told Western Wire.
Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot and author of upcoming book, “Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change,” told Western Wire, “Climate activists have shamelessly stooped to using children for their PR efforts. Shame on these parents for allowing their kids to be used as cheap publicity pawns in the climate debate.”
Free Range Report