US kids’ law­suit over cli­mate gath­ers steam

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

MIAMI: A law­suit over cli­mate change filed by 21 young Amer­i­cans has gained the at­ten­tion of the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try, which is join­ing the US gov­ern­ment to op­pose the kids’ de­mands for sharper pol­lu­tion cuts. The plain­tiffs, aged eight to 19, in­clude the grand­daugh­ter of renowned cli­mate sci­en­tist James Hansen, for­merly of NASA and a well-known ad­vo­cate of re­duc­ing the green­house gases that are caus­ing the planet to heat up.

The plain­tiffs want the gov­ern­ment to com­mit to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions and im­ple­ment “a science-based cli­mate re­cov­ery plan” that pro­tects the Earth for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Ore­gon-based group, Our Chil­dren’s Trust. “This case will put in­dis­putable science about cli­mate change squarely in front of the fed­eral ju­di­ciary,” said the group, which filed its law­suit against Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion in Au­gust, and has filed mul­ti­ple state law­suits over the past sev­eral years.

They are call­ing on the US Dis­trict Court of Ore­gon - the state where most of the plain­tiffs live - to or­der the gov­ern­ment to “swiftly phase down car­bon diox­ide emis­sions” so that at­mo­spheric CO2 con­cen­tra­tions “are no more than 350 parts per mil­lion by 2100.” At­mo­spheric CO2 con­cen­tra­tion is cur­rently around 400 ppm, a level un­prece­dented in mod­ern history and one that has raised alarm among many cli­mate sci­en­tists.

Mean­while, the planet is on track for its hottest year since 1880, amid key cli­mate talks later this month in Paris that will re­veal how much world lead­ers are pre­pared to do to save the en­vi­ron­ment. In a sign that the kids’ law­suit is caus­ing some con­cern to in­dus­try in­ter­ests, pow­er­ful oil and coal com­pa­nies filed ear­lier this month for per­mis­sion to join the US gov­ern­ment in op­pos­ing it. They in­clude the Amer­i­can Fuel and Petro­chem­i­cal Man­u­fac­tur­ers - which rep­re­sents ExxonMo­bil, BP, Shell, Koch In­dus­tries and more - the Amer­i­can Petroleum In­sti­tute and the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers.

“The fos­sil fuel in­dus­try doesn’t want ad­di­tional pres­sure on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to run a stricter cli­mate change pro­gram,” said Cor­nell Univer­sity law pro­fes­sor Ger­ald Tor­res, an ex­pert on en­vi­ron­men­tal law who is not in­volved in the case. “It does sug­gest they are tak­ing this law­suit se­ri­ously. And I think it ought to be taken se­ri­ously,”Tor­res told AFP.

Dan­gers Ig­nored

The plain­tiffs say the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has known about the dan­ger of car­bon emis­sions since 1965, but has not done enough to stem them. Specif­i­cally, pledges in the 1990s by Congress and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce CO2 emis­sions and stop global warm­ing were “never im­ple­mented”. This lack of ac­tion shows that the “fed­eral gov­ern­ment has vi­o­lated the youngest gen­er­a­tion’s con­sti­tu­tional rights to life, lib­erty, property, as well as failed to pro­tect es­sen­tial pub­lic trust re­sources,” Our Chil­dren’s Trust has said.

In other words, the gov­ern­ment has jeop­ar­dized such vi­tal nat­u­ral re­sources as the air, seas, coast­lines, wa­ter and wildlife. In­stead, the US gov­ern­ment has “con­tin­ued to per­mit, au­tho­rize and sub­si­dize fos­sil fuel ex­trac­tion, de­vel­op­ment, consumption and ex­por­ta­tion - ac­tiv­i­ties pro­duc­ing enor­mous quan­ti­ties of CO2 emis­sions that have sub­stan­tially caused the rise in the at­mo­spheric con­cen­tra­tion of CO2,” said the le­gal doc­u­ments.

The po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere in the United States is also con­tentious, with many Repub­li­can law­mak­ers skep­ti­cal of - or out­right deny­ing - the ex­is­tence of hu­man-caused cli­mate change. “At the na­tional level, the de­bate is pretty much stuck,” said Tor­res, adding that he thinks the kids’ case “is legally sound”. He said it raised “the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion which ev­ery per­son in a democ­racy ought to ask ev­ery day when they wake up: What is gov­ern­ment for?” — AFP

VAN­COU­VER: (Left to right) Cana­dian fish­ing Cap­tain Richard Idi­ens, US swim­mer Ben Le­comte and chef Vikram Vij, of Vij’s Foods in Van­cou­ver, load six months of food on to the Rolano on Nov 17, 2015 for Le­comte’s swim from Tokyo to San Francisco. - AFP

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