Kids’ One-Sided Climate Change Lawsuit Scheduled for Trial

Judge Thomas Coffin, U.S. Magistrate for the District of Oregon, yesterday set a trial date of February 5, 2018 to hear a lawsuit by a group of youngsters (aged 8-19) to require the U.S. government to implement policies to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 350 parts per million by 2100. The trial will take place in Eugene, Oregon, before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken.

Coffin’s order allows three trade associations—the National Manufacturers Association, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute—to withdraw from the case without prejudice. The three associations had filed motions to dismiss the suit, which Coffin rejected on April 10. Apparently, they pulled out to avoid having to produce years of confidential communications.

The case, as envisioned by Judge Coffin, prejudges the issues in favor of the plaintiffs. The court will examine the following claims:

[I]s human induced climate change occurring, if so, is it occurring at the rate alleged by Plaintiffs, will it have the deleterious impact on habitability and cause the harm alleged, are the actions and policies of Defendant United States promoting, encouraging, and facilitating greenhouse gas emissions and thus a material cause of the degree and pace of climate change, are the actions and policies being taken with knowledge of or deliberate indifference to the harms caused Plaintiffs and all those similarly situated, and do such actions/policies violate the Constitution and the public trust obligations of the government?

What’s completely missing from this framing is any consideration of the risks of climate change policy—how the regulations, mandates, prohibitions, taxes, and other forms of coercion required to reduce CO2 concentrations to 350 ppm also endanger the same alleged constitutional rights to which the youngsters appeal.

I commented on the kids’ climate suit in a previous post. I still think the suit is wrongheaded for the same reasons.

As summarized by Judge Coffin, the kids allege that rising CO2 concentrations infringe their constitutionally protected rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; violate equal protection rights embedded in the Fifth Amendment by “denying them protections afforded to previous generations”; violate an implicit Ninth Amendment right to “a stable climate and an open ocean and atmosphere”; and violate the public trust doctrine, secured by the Ninth Amendment, “by denying future generations essential natural resources.”

The kids probably have no idea how easily their argument can be flipped to indict the climate agenda of which they are so proud. Here’s the case that the court, unfortunately, will not hear.

The 350 ppm agenda itself infringes humanity’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It does so by restricting access to the most affordable, reliable, scalable sources of energy, without which life for the mass of mankind would be nasty, poor, brutal, and short.

Accordingly, the 350 ppm agenda also violates equal protection rights by denying to future generations the economic opportunities and affordable energy enjoyed by previous generations; violates an implicit Ninth Amendment right to enjoy the great cycle of progress initiated and still sustained by fossil fuels; and violates the public trust doctrine, secured by the Ninth Amendment, by denying future generations access to essential natural resources, notably the coal, gas, and oil, which provide nearly 87 percent of global commercial energy.

It is too late for the kids’ legal “guardian,” former NASA scientist James Hansen, to admit that putting an energy-starved world on an energy diet would be destructive to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Let’s hope the kids someday acquire the wisdom of the poet: “Good and bad I define these terms, quite clear, no doubt, somehow, Ah but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”