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01/20/2020

The US Court of Appeals Rules the Judiciary Cannot Prevent Irreparable Devastation to the Nation Posed by the Climate Crisis (January 20th)

Podcast listeners are likely aware I've conducted several, if not numerous, interviews over the past few years regarding the climate crisis or catastrophe, or as Astra Taylor terms it, our carboniferous capitalist economy.   

Late last week the US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, ruled 2-1 in dismissing the Juliana v. the US case.  (Re: background, there is a related Wiki page.)

I strongly encourage listeners to read the court's 32 page decision by Judge Hurwitz - and the equally long dissent by Justice Staton.  They are both at: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2020/01/17/18-36082.pdf

Though the majority recognizes the existential threat the climate crisis poses, e.g., they open with "the record left little basis for denying that climate change was occurring . . . an will wreak havoc on the Earth's climate if unchecked" and that "the record conclusively established that the federal government has long understood the risk of fossil fuel use and increasing carbon dioxide emissions," the majority ostensibly argued the court cannot readdress the problem because the plaintiffs claim that the Constitution protects their right to a "climate system capable of sustaining human  life" is "non-justiciable," i.e., the court found the guarantee clause of the Constitution (that protects "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness") "does not provide the basis for a justiciable claim."    Justice Staton argued, in part, "the Constitution does not condone the Nation's willful destruction."     

Plaintiffs' attorneys stated they will appeal. 

Listeners should also be aware last month the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, in a case similar to Juliana with 900 co-plaintiffs, ruled/ordered their government to cut the nation's carbon emissions by 25% from 1990 levels over five years.  The court based its Urgenda decision in part on human rights.  The decision is at: https://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/inziendocument?id=ECLI:NL:HR:2019:2006 (hit your "translate" button at the top right to read in English).  

There are currently an estimated 1,400 plus related climate lawsuits pending worldwide.  

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