Fed Judge Allows Activists to Argue Global Warming Violates Constitutional Rights

By Michael Bastasch Published on April 11, 2016

A federal judge recently ruled in favor of environmental activists suing the government for not doing enough to fight global warming. The judge denied motions to dismiss claims by activists that global warming violated their constitutional rights.

Not only did Judge Thomas Coffin reject federal government arguments to dismiss the lawsuit brought by environmentalists, who are suing on behalf of 21 kids and teenagers, for lack of standing, Collins also allowed activists to argue global warming violated their constitutional rights.

Environmentalists argue carbon dioxide emissions “are infringing the plaintiffs’ right to life and liberty in violation of their substantive due process rights,” Coffin, who is a federal magistrate in Oregon, wrote in his Friday ruling.

“Plaintiffs also allege defendants have violated plaintiffs’ equal protection rights embedded in the Fifth Amendment by denying them protections afforded to previous generations and by favoring short-term economic interests of certain citizens,” he wrote.

“Plaintiffs further allege defendants’ acts and omissions violate the implicit right, via the Ninth Amendment, to a stable climate and an ocean and atmosphere free from dangerous levels of C02,” Coffin wrote. “Finally, plaintiffs allege defendants have violated a public trust doctrine, secured by the Ninth Amendment, by denying future generations essential natural resources.

“Accordingly, the court should decline to dismiss the complaint for failure to allege a substantive due process claim.”

The lawsuit was filed by Earth Guardians on behalf of 21 kids, ages 8 to 19, who are ostensibly concerned global warming will jeopardize their futures through rising sea levels, more extreme weather and hotter temperatures.

One plaintiff, 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh M., even argues he’s “suffered harm to his spiritual and cultural practices from” fossil fuel use.

“Xiuhtezcatl’s home, including the forests that he relies upon for his spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, will continue to die and burn as climate change worsens,” the lawsuit, filed in federal court last year, reads. “Water will become increasingly scarce, adversely impacting every aspect of his life.”

Earth Guardians ultimately want to use the courts to force the U.S. to phase out fossil fuel use and reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million by the end of the century.

Environmentalists are hoping they can replicate the success Dutch activists saw in court by getting a judge to force the government to cut carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent by 2020.

President Barack Obama has already promised to cut U.S. emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025, so it’s not clear how many more cuts the courts would have to force on the country to supposedly address global warming.

“At this stage, the court will not dismiss the premise that an order to regulate, per EPA’ s statutory authority to regulate C02, will result in that impact,” Coffin wrote. “The allegations establish that, for instance, the EPA’ s failure to regulate impacts the younger population within this district and it may very well be that an order to act to protect the public health as directed will address that harm.”

“Given the complexities of the allegations and the need for expert opinion to establish the harm associated with government action and the extent to which a court order can limit that harm, the issue may be better addressed at the summary judgment stage,” he wrote. “In sum, for the above reasons, the court should decline to dismiss the case for a lack of standing.”


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