Supreme Court Rules Climate Kids Will Have Their Day in Court

The faces of change.
The faces of change.
Photo: AP

There’s hope in our world after all: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that a landmark climate case, Juliana v. United States, should go to trial. Yes, the one where 21 kids are suing the federal government because they believe a world where climate disaster isn’t rampant—a world where they can live healthily, happily, and in pursuit of happiness—is a constitutional right.


Sounds fair, right? Well, President Donald Trump doesn’t seem to think so. He’s been trying to kill the case before it reached this level in the courts, but the court disagreed. The order reads:

The Government’s request for relief is premature and is denied without prejudice. The breadth of respondents’ claims is striking, however, and the justiciability of those claims presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion. The District Court should take these concerns into account in assessing the burdens of discovery and trial, as well as the desirability of a prompt ruling on the Government’s pending dispositive motions.

The lawsuit launched in 2015 against then-President Barack Obama, and it’s been one looooong process. Neither sitting president has supported the case since its inception or wanted it to go to trial. A Justice Department spokesperson sent a comment to Earther that read: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized the ‘striking’ breadth of the Juliana plaintiffs’ claims and has suggested that the district court resolve this case promptly. Like the last administration, the Department believes that this case is deeply misguided and should be dismissed.”

These meddling kids want the government to take swift action to rein in seemingly never-ending U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that continue to warm up the planet. More specifically, the plaintiffs want a consumption-based inventory of U.S. carbon emissions, an enforceable plan to stop climate change, and a complete end to the Energy Policy Act, which advocates for “clean coal” (whatever the hell that is).

Now, both parties are set to make their case before the U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon.

Despite the battle left to fight in court, this is a hopeful turn of events given how hopeless the courtroom has become for climate litigation, from California to New York where lawsuits filed by states and cities were dismissed. Those lawsuits were against oil corporations, though.


We’ll see if suing the government proves to be more fruitful. Colombia, at least, has seen some success. The U.S. could be next.

Update 7/31/18 3:19 p.m.: This post has been updated to include a comment from the Department of Justice.


Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.


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Yessenia, I highly recommend interviewing the plaintiffs (or their lawyers) to tell us exactly what the complaint is about. It’s all over the place. Or at least find a fucking lawyer at Gizmodo Media and ask them what this is about. US government is broke and getting broker and oil and gas is going apeshit on production right now.

The only specific item requested by plaintiffs, i.e. not airy fairy and so vague to be almost meaningless, is to stop the Jordan Cove LNG plant being constructed.

FERC approves LNG plants. There’s like 30 or so of them at various stages of development. So this lawsuit stops the one in Oregon. There’s shitloads more.

Here’s the latest on LNG (Jordan Cove LNG on the second figure below:

And the ones in planning with approval pending:

Going back to the original complaint and scrolling down to the very end, here’s what the plaintiffs (kidz) want the defendants (us taxpayers) to do:


“[When the rights of persons are violated, ‘the Constitution requires redress by the courts,’ notwithstanding the more general value of democratic decision making.” Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____, slip. op. at 24 (2015) (internal citations omitted).

1. Declare that Defendants have violated and are violating Plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by substantially causing or contributing to a dangerous concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and that, in so doing, Defendants dangerously interfere with a stable climate system required by our nation and Plaintiffs alike;

2. Enjoin Defendants from further violations of the Constitution underlying each claim for relief;

3. Declare the Energy Policy Act, Section 201, to be unconstitutional on its face;

4. Declare DOE/FE Order No. 3041, granting long-term multi-contract authorization to Jordan Cove Energy for LNG exports from its Coos Bay terminal, to be unconstitutional as applied and set it aside;

5. Declare Defendants’ public trust violations and enjoin Defendants from violating the public trust doctrine underlying each claim for relief;

6. Order Defendants to prepare a consumption-based inventory of U.S. CO2 emissions;

7. Order Defendants to prepare and implement an enforceable national remedial plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2 so as to stabilize the climate system and protect the vital resources on which Plaintiffs now and in the future will depend;

8. Retain jurisdiction over this action to monitor and enforce Defendants’ compliance with the national remedial plan and all associated orders of this Court; and Case 6:15-cv-01517-TC Document 7 Filed 09/10/15 Page 99 of 100 FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF; Case No.: 6:15-cv-01517-TC 95

9. Grant such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

Respectfully submitted this 10th day of September, 2015,