The Common Good

Kids vs. Global Warming

A lawsuit that comes to a head May 11 could set a trajectory for how we legislate and mitigate against the devastating impacts of global climate change, Think Progress reports.

The suit, which has been dubbed a ‘David vs. Goliath battle,' sees a group of young adults taking on high-level government officials, states, energy companies and big businesses over their collective failure to adequately protect our planet for future generations.

Led by 17-year old Alec Loorz, the founder of Kids vs. Global Warming, organizer of the iMatter March and the author of ‘The Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels’, these young people filed the lawsuit a year ago, in which they argue that:

"common law requires governments to protect critical natural resources on behalf of current and future generations… [and] the government has an inherent duty to protect the atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions, and all of us from the impacts of global climate change."

Disappointed by the apathy and lack of action at the highest levels of government and the energy industry, and pre-empting the Occupy movement by a few months, Loorz’s 2011 iMatter March announced, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, that “Every Generation Needs A New Revolution,' that the time had come “for the youngest generation to hold our leaders accountable for their actions.”

If the powers-that-be weren’t going to listen, then people needed to make more noise.

Our Children’s Trust, the organization that filed the injunction on behalf of the plaintiffs – who are all minors – have said that the preliminary injunction was filed:

“to compel federal agencies to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent further increases in U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and to force government action in reducing CO2 emissions consistent with what current scientific analysis deems necessary to halt catastrophic climate change.”

With the help of climate scientists and lawyers, Loorz and his fellow climate advocates have been working to present a compelling case that proves that the government and the energy industry have as much responsibility to future generations as they do to the present one or shareholders.

And the case is compelling enough to be causing some anxieties for the government and the high-polluting companies who the lawsuit is targeting.

According to Think Progress:

"Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins ruled that the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and several California businesses could intervene against the kids, based on the argument that limiting greenhouse gas emissions would lead to a “diminution or cessation of their businesses” — in other words, jeopardize their profit margins."

These businesses are seeking to have the case dismissed, and it will be up to Judge Wilkins on May 11 to decide whether or not that will be the case.

In his article from Think Progress, Bill Becker raises a number of interesting points about the lawsuit. First, he admits embarrassment to the fact that we have reached such a stalemate in attempts to tackle climate change through the usual channels. That a group of children have been forced to bring a legal case against their elders is a sad reflection on the failures of our leaders to act decisively.

However, Becker is also encouraged by the tenacity of these young people. They are already recognizing the problems that will await them when it is their world to run, and they realize that they need to take action now. This is a lawsuit that:

Could establish the idea that protecting a global life-support system from irreparable harm is a higher priority than corporate profits.

It is a case that is seeking to break the cycle of short-term fixes and politically-expedient actions in favor of creating a long-term vision for how we can protect our country and our planet. I for one am hoping that Judge Wilkins allows the case to proceed – we may not know it, but it is in all of our interests that it does.

Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)