While climate change is an evident problem, the judges ruled that the plaintiffs, who at the time were between the ages of 8 and 19 when they filed the suit against the U.S. government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by enacting policies that contributed to the climate crisis, lacked valid reason to pursue change in the judicial setting. The judges also stated that legislation is the proper route to solving the climate change issue. “The panel reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large,” was stated in the final opinion.
Kelsey Juliana, the 23-year-old named as lead plaintiff in the case, said on Friday, January 17, “This isn’t over. Prepare for a petition for review en banc to the 9th Circuit as we refuse to do anything but move forward and ultimately win. Courts do have an obligation to address issues of constitutional, existential crisis, like climate change.”
Vox news interviewed Andrea Rodgers, a senior attorney at Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit backing the youth who filed the lawsuit, and she said the decision is an “unprecedented and contrary to American principles of justice.”
Continuing from the final opinion, stating the Court confronting climate change is beyond the power of an Article III court. “As the opinions of their experts make plain, any effective plan would necessarily require a host of complex policy decisions entrusted, for better or for worse, to the wisdom and discretion of the executive and legislative branches.”
For all the majority’s restraint, the dissenting judge’s opinion began with:
“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.”
Unfortunately, Juliana is another example of an activist case in which the plaintiffs and supporters will possibly have to leave the courts behind and instead take it to the legislative arena.
Our Children’s Trust vowed to appeal. Julia Olson from Our Children’s Trust said, “This is far from over.”