An interesting lawsuit is making its way through the federal courts. The action was filed in California but was recently transferred to D.C. for procedural reasons. What is unique about the case is that the plaintiffs are children. One of the lead plaintiffs is Alec Loorz, who at the age of 12, started an organization called Kids-vs-Global-Warming. The plaintiff children claim "standing", that is the legal right to bring the action, since they are beneficiaries of the Public Trust to our shared natural resources. The Public Trust Doctrine, simply defined, is that the federal government has a duty to its citizens to exercise the highest duty of care when dealing with natural resources that are necessarily held in common for all. The government holds vital resources in "trust" for present and future generations of its citizens. By failing to control atmospheric contamination that has caused "catastrophic and irreparable damage", the government has breached its fiduciary duty, allege the plaintiffs. The Complaint details impacts caused by climate change, including melting glaciers and rising sea levels. The plaintiffs do not seek to tell Congress how to address these issues, but rather are asking the courts to order the federal government "to do its job."
Regardless of one's view on climate change, or the use of the courts to handle these issues, it is refreshing to see youth engaged and taking action on issues of great importance.
To learn more about this lawsuit, visit Our Children's Trust, an Oregon based group that is also involved in this lawsuit.