By Madeleine Carlisle, Time, Jan. 18, 2020.
On Friday, the Ninth Circuit court of appeals threw out the high profile lawsuit Juliana v. United States, in which 21 young Americans sued the United States government for violating their Constitutional rights by taking actions that exacerbated climate change. The court acknowledged that while the threat of climate change is real, it “reluctantly” concluded that the issue should be raised with the executive and legislative branches of government, not the courts.
The suit, which was filed in 2015, argues that the U.S. government violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to life and liberty by taking steps to support a national energy system that causes climate change, despite know the threat of climate change for decades. The suit requested multiple remedies, including the court order the U.S. government “to prepare and implement an enforceable national remedial plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions” and work to lower CO2 in the atmosphere.
Two judges of a three-person panel voted to dismiss the case on Friday. As Jennifer Rushlow, the director of the Environmental Law Center at Vermont Law School, explains, the court threw out the case on the finding of “redressability,” basically meaning they didn’t think they could give the plaintiffs what they sought. The dismissal reversed an earlier decision by district court judge Ann Aiken.