There have been increasingly effective attempts to litigate on behalf of the planet. Just such legal action against those corporations, organizations, and governing bodies (including the US government) is necessary so that we can even get to the first step and begin to actually fight climate change. That’s right. We haven’t even taken the first step in doing one thing to combat global warming. We have talked about doing something – for decades and all during this time, carbon emissions have gone through the roof with millions of words being written in preparation for….nothing. The actual solution to the problem is only four words long, or at least that’s what it would have been if we’d actually done something in the 1980’s and 1990’s when we began to understand the damage that fossil fuels were doing to our environment. Those four words
STOP BURNING FOSSIL FUELS
In fact, scientists have classified the current geologic period on Earth as the Anthropocene, meaning the epoch begun by humans detrimentally affecting the Earth’s climate, and we are now at the beginning of the Sixth Mass Extinction on our planet, this one caused entirely by human activity.
The United Nations, world governments, environmental groups and anyone who could have put the brakes on the destruction and havoc we are wreaking upon our world have utterly failed. But there is hope on the horizon. Unless you’re a fossil fuel company. In THAT case, you definitely see trouble brewing. Last year, I watched a riveting discussion which took place in the British Supreme Court discussing the role of climate justice adjudication. I highly recommend the video of the proceedings, which can be watched (or just listened to) on YouTube here.
Additionally, Dutch Urgenda won a huge legal battle in the The Netherlands last year against the Dutch government for their failure to keep their citizens safe and healthy by continuing to burn fossil fuels. It was a long and arduous task for that group, and even though it’s on appeal now, much of the groundwork was done and the process of criminalizing the fossil fuel industry, and those who let them get away with murder, inched considerably forward. You can read about that case here.
I myself had a case being considered by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. In the end, they chose not to pursue it further. I had asked them to investigate and prosecute the fossil fuel industry en masse for what they’ve done to the planet. It was an extreme long shot, with me doing something that, in all honesty, would really take an army of lawyers. :^ (
On Friday, April 8th, twenty one kids (and climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, who I wrote about here) did, however, make it over a major legal hurdle in their case against Barack Obama, the US government, and the fossil fuel industry (who have also “conveniently” made themselves defendants) by not having their case dismissed by a judge in Oregon. It really speaks volumes when you have the US government siding with the fossil fuel industry against children, trying (unsuccessfully) to have the kid’s case thrown out of court. The kids, using something along the lines of the Prudent Man Standard, which I wrote about here, are faulting the government for not keeping them safe and protecting the planet for their future enjoyment, a concept you may know as, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” The kids (who are gathered under the banner organization Our Children’s Trust) lawsuit is summed up by the Court as such:
“Plaintiffs are suing the United States and various government officials and agencies because, they assert, the government has known for decades that carbon dioxide (C02) pollution has been causing catastrophic climate change and has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. Moreover, plaintiffs allege that the government and its agencies have taken action or failed to take action that has resulted in increased carbon pollution through fossil fuel extraction, production, consumption, transportation, and exportation. Plaintiffs assert that a reduction ofglobal C02 concentrations to less than 350 parts per million is possible, but action must be taken immediately to prevent further ocean acidification and ocean warming.”
Our Children’s Trust press release for last Friday’s legal victory can be read here. And to see just what kind of a tight rope the legal team representing the plaintiffs (the kids and James Hansen) are walking, the nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat response by US Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin in response to the government’s (and the fossil fuel industry’s) attempts to dismiss the case will leave you with heart palpitations (and can be read here), or at least that’s what it did to me – and I knew the outcome before I began reading. What’s obvious, indeed, what’s crystal clear, is that the Obama Administration is leaning on the most powerful and profitable industry on Earth, with the most high powered and financially motivated legal army, to lead the charge and keep the petrodollars flowing, which is sickening and shameful beyond words and which should truly be the Obama Administration’s (and Hillary Clinton’s) enduring “legacy.”
Another way to look at it is that the American Petroleum Industry and their fetid ilk (which are the “organizational” equivalent to the personal evil of Dick Cheney), which purposefully had themselves named as co-defendants, are going to try and wring the very life out of the legal action being taken by the kids. Some call it a “David and Goliath” story, but that doesn’t go nearly far enough. It doesn’t even matter how brilliant the legal team is that’s representing the kids – and believe me, they’re very, very good.
I’m going to veer for a moment to something that caught my eye in the kid’s case against the government regarding the Energy Policy Act (I think they are referring to the 1992 Energy Policy Act, and not the 2005 Energy Policy Act), Section 201 where their lawsuit alleges that this section is unconstitutional. I, personally, had no idea what that section was, so I looked it up and here it is (thanks a lot, by the way, George H.W. Bush and the subsequent presidents since 1992 which let this stinker linger all these years):
I actually wrote about liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports a while ago, and the last sentence of Section 201 which I’ve highlighted (above) explains a lot about the phrase, “public interest,” which kind of confused me at the time because it seemed to be the MAIN thing which existed to gauge (justify) natural gas exports. It’s just two words (public interest), in an enormous energy bill, but it’s a good example of just how sneaky the fossil fuel industry was, and is.
Anyway, as I was saying, what will be really important to the success of the kid’s case against the Obama Administration (and, now, against the entire fossil fuel industry) is that the courts have the jurisdictional and legal balls to let it proceed. There is steam behind this movement to criminalize the fossil fuel industry, by the way, provided not only by Dutch Urgenda abroad, but also by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against ExxonMobil. If Schneiderman can continue to garner interest in his investigation of what ExxonMobil knew, and when they knew it, a la the Master Tobacco Settlement (RICO prosecution, which I wrote about here), then the game is really on. The US Attorneys General and Our Children’s Trust vs the fossil fuel industry is something I’d be very optimistic about, indeed.
The hard truth is that Our Children’s Trust and their incredible legal team are navigating a minefield which has been carefully laid out by the highest paid, most unscrupulous, and well-practiced attorneys on the planet, with plenty of assistance and cover by the US government. The legal “scalpel” the kids are using has to be cross-cutting, and yet precise, enough to do the job at hand without giving even a millimeter of “wiggle room” for what will surely be years of appeals filed by not only the Obama Administration, but probably any succeeding Administrations other than (hopefully) the “Sanders Administration.”
If When Upon becoming the next Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC you can bet the farm that the United Nations is going to help these kids (and James Hansen) score one for the good guys humanity. You may as well call it a Hail Mary, folks, because we’ve totally run out the clock.
UPDATE: On Friday, April 29th, Our Children’s Trust had ANOTHER awesome legal victory. Click here for the press release. Yay!!!