News & Politics

Court Smacks Down Children's Attempt to Force Climate Policy by Lawsuit

Image via Shutterstock, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a key victory for the rule of law, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit filed by children against the U.S. government, claiming that the federal government had violated the children’s rights by failing to act against climate change. The lawsuit asked the court to unilaterally force the government to adopt broad climate policies, circumventing Congress and the executive branch entirely.

“The plaintiffs claim that the government has violated their constitutional rights, including a claimed right under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to a ‘climate system capable of sustaining human life.’ The central issue before us is whether, even assuming such a broad constitutional right exists, an Article III court can provide the plaintiffs the redress they seek—an order requiring the government to develop a plan to ‘phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2,'” Judge Andrew Hurwitz wrote in the opinion on the case Juliana v. United States (2020).

He ruled that the courts cannot unilaterally make law in this fashion, even if they wanted to.

“Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power. Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government,” Hurwitz wrote.

According to a summary of the opinion, “the panel held that it was beyond the power of an Article III court to order, design, supervise, or implement the plaintiffs’ requested remedial plan where any effective plan would necessarily require a host of complex policy decisions entrusted to the wisdom and discretion of the executive and legislative branches.”

Free-market organizations rightly praised the decision.

“We applaud the majority’s dismissal of this case. The court correctly understood that a lawsuit aimed at imposing a national plan to eliminate fossil fuel emissions and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide would push the court far beyond its constitutional powers,” Sam Kazman, general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), said in a statement. “It would require the court to substitute its judgment for that of Congress and the Administration on an unprecedented scale.”

“However, it is unfortunate that, in coming to this conclusion, the court summarized the scientific evidence on climate change in such apocalyptic terms,” Kazman added. “The Department of Justice should have made clear that its failure to contest this evidence did not mean that the evidence was incontestable. Hopefully, future litigation on this issue will involve a more measured assessment of climate reality.”

CEI has pressured NASA to retract the horrendously false claim that 97 percent of climate scientists accept the idea of catastrophic man-made climate change.

Anthony Watts, senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, compared Juliana v. United States to the New York State lawsuit against Exxon-Mobil claiming the gas company committed climate change fraud — a case that was dismissed last December.

“Just like the recent case against Exxon-Mobil in New York that was dismissed, this case by ‘climate concerned children; was prompted and powered by climate activist interests. In both cases, huge amounts of money, time, and legal expertise were thrown at these claims in an attempt to make a legal case that climate change has been harmful,” Watts said. “Both cases were dismissed.”

“The bottom line is that while yes, we’ve seen some changes in our climate over the past century, with improved crop yields, better health, reduced deaths from weather disasters, and increasingly less impoverishment worldwide, it is hard to argue that an increase of about 1 degree Centigrade has been detrimental to humanity,” he concluded.

Indeed, repeated prophecies of climate disaster have proven false, while human ingenuity has enabled an explosion in crop yields that helps sustain the earth’s burgeoning population. In fact, humanity grew both richer and more sustainable in the last decade. Contrary to the alarmism, the world is not about to end, and children do not need the courts to trample on the Constitution to force complex climate policy.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.