Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at the University of California Los Angeles, said that the Supreme Court stepping in on a case like this strongly suggests there’s something there that piques the court’s interest.
“It’s certainly a signal that the court is
uncomfortable with the underlying legal theory of the Juliana case,” Carlson said.
The federal government, under Presidents
Barack Obama and Donald Trump, has argued the case has no merit and repeatedly sought to have it dismissed. Jeffrey Wood, a political appointee at the Department of Justice handling environmental cases, told a law conference last week that the right to a safe climate “simply does not exist” and that the Juliana lawsuit “has no legal basis.”
For climate activists old and young, the courts have become a last resort for pushing governments and businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially with an executive branch that’s still denying climate change exists and a gridlocked Congress.
There are also several ongoing climate change lawsuits filed by cities, counties, and state against oil companies, though the pivot points are different. The local governments are citing nuisance statutes and seeking money from oil companies to pay for damages caused by climate change, whereas the children’s case is trying to force the government to enact policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
But the prospects for the children’s climate
lawsuit to succeed appear dim, first because the courts tend to give wide latitude to the
executive branch in these cases, and second
because the Supreme Court’s newest Justice
Brett Kavanaugh is much more skeptical of
environmental regulations than his
This is just the beginning of what we’re likely to see from a Court that doesn’t have Justice Kennedy on it anymore,” Carlson said.
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