Trump Admin: Americans Have No Constitutional Right To A Stable Climate

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An appeals court agreed in January that young people cannot sue the government for inaction on climate change.

The Trump administration argued in federal court last year that Americans have “no fundamental constitutional right to a 'stable climate system,'" and it seems a panel of judges finally agreed in January.

  • The federal government insisted a lawsuit, brought by 21 young people over the government’s inaction on climate change, should not be permitted to move forward, The Independent reported in July 2019.

  • In January 2020, a panel of three judges “all agreed that climate change is an urgent, threatening problem, but ruled that the plaintiffs, who were between the ages of 8 and 19 when the suit was filed, didn’t have standing to sue,” according to Vox.

  • Rather than appeal to the courts, “the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large,” the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stated.

  • The plaintiffs sought “a government plan to phase out fossil fuels and pull greenhouse gases back out of the air,” Vox noted earlier this year, but Circuit Court Judge Andrew Hurwitz wrote that the panel concluded “such relief is beyond our constitutional power.”

The federal government, beginning with the Obama administration, argued since the 2015 filing of Juliana v the United States that Americans do not have a constitutional right to a stable climate.

  • Jeffrey Bossert Clark, an assistant attorney general for the Justice Department, told the court in July the lawsuit attempts to skirt the authorities of Congress and federal agencies, saying: "It is a case that is a dagger at the separation of powers. This is a suit that is designed to circumvent a whole bunch of statutes."

  • Judge Josephine L. Staton disagreed, writing in her dissenting opinion: "It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the nation."

Andrea Rodgers, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in January that the fight is not yet over.

"We will be asking the full Ninth Circuit to review the determination that federal courts can do nothing to address an admitted constitutional violation.”


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