Appeals Court Places Hold on Activist-Backed Youth Climate Lawsuit

Published September 11, 2017

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California ordered a temporary stay in a climate change lawsuit brought against the federal government by environmental activists claiming to represent children.

In Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana et al. v. The United States of America et al., 21 people aged 10 to 21 sued the Obama administration, arguing the federal government has violated their constitutional rights by encouraging the use of fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse gases that the plaintiffs say are damaging the climate system. The Obama administration tried to have the cased dismissed in November 2015, but a federal judge denied its request, resulting in President Donald Trump inheriting the case.

The Ninth Circuit court issued its stay on July 25, giving it time to consider a petition filed by the Justice Department in June for a writ of mandamus allowing higher courts to review and overturn lower court decisions before they have even held a trial. The Trump administration is asking the court to intervene, review, and overturn a decision made by a federal judge last year to allow the climate lawsuit to go to trial.

Beginning of the End?

Chris Horner, a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says the Ninth Circuit’s ruling could signal an end to the lawsuit.

“It’s entirely possible the panel’s ruling suggests that the end is near for this bizarre matter,” said Horner. “Of course, it’s possible the circus will continue a little while longer, continuing to chew through taxpayer resources to knock off what has to be seen as something of a desperation lawsuit.

“Media characterization of the new administration actually working to defend against the case as unusual shows how far we have fallen into the abyss of ‘sue-and-settle,’ using suits by ideologically aligned plaintiffs to impose policies not attainable through the proper democratic process,” Horner said. “This highly questionable filing was near the top of the political Left’s wish-list of candidate suits.”

Paris Persistence

Horner says there is a drawback if the Ninth Circuit halts the lawsuit.

“The one downside if the Ninth Circuit does bounce the suit is it will delay the inevitable affirmation the climate industry intends to cite the Paris climate treaty as reason why stringent fossil fuel restrictions must be imposed or strengthened,” Horner said. “That formal affirmation cannot come too soon, given the inherently temporary nature of President Trump’s chosen path out of the illegitimately entered pact.

“The sooner the Senate calls it a treaty and votes to kill it, the sooner we can move on from these costly charades, yet that is unlikely to happen until the Left more fully shows their hand on how they plan to use Paris,” said Horner.

Kids ‘Exploited’

Marc Morano, executive director of Climate Depot, a project of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, says environmentalists’ use of children to enact climate policies they couldn’t get through legislation is just another underhanded tactic activists employ. 

“Climate activists could not convince Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, they could not persuade the American public to be afraid of ‘global warming,’ and they failed to get carbon taxes and UN climate treaties ratified, so they used [President Barack] Obama to bypass democracy and impose domestic climate policy through executive orders, Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and a UN climate pact [Paris Climate Agreement] without Senate ratification,” Morano said. “Now, Trump has undone the regulations and the UN pact, leaving climate activists clinging to the courts as their last gasp.

“And what better way to use the courts than to exploit kids in a ridiculous lawsuit?” said Morano. “Using kids to fight the climate change battles is disgusting, but sadly expected. A child-based lawsuit brings in media, money, and attempts to prey on fears of ‘the children’s’ future ruined by ‘climate change.'”

‘A Reprehensible Political Stunt’

David Wojick, head of DEWA, a cognitive science and policy analysis consultancy, says the lawsuit may actually go forward.

“The use of children as plaintiffs is a reprehensible political stunt,” said Wojick. “Yet the case is likely to go to trial because it alleges present as well as future damages and climate science literature is full of articles claiming humans are contributing to present weather extremes, so the plaintiffs should have no trouble finding experts.

“Even worse, the U.S. government has officially declared carbon dioxide emissions endanger Americans’ health and welfare,” Wojick said. “The plaintiffs are asking the court to require the government to act, which is common. It is time these fallacious arguments are publicly exposed, especially the bogus science.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.