“Next week, barring a last-minute intervention by the Supreme Court, climate change will go to trial for just the second time in U.S. history. In a federal courtroom in Eugene, Oregon, 21 young people are scheduled to face off against the U.S. government, which they accuse of endangering their future by promoting policies that have increased emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other planet warming gases. The plaintiffs aren’t asking for monetary damages. Instead, they want District Judge Ann Aiken to take the unprecedented step of ordering federal agencies to dramatically reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
“Government attorneys are not expected to challenge the scientific consensus that human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, cause global warming. But the outcome could hinge, in part, on how Aiken weighs other technical issues. Each side has recruited a roster of high-profile scientists and economists, including Nobel laureates, to bolster their argument. “It’s clearly going to be a battle of the experts,” says Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, who is not involved in the case.
“The civil trial will be a milestone in a hard-fought legal battle that began in 2015, when environmental groups joined with youth activists and retired NASA scientist James Hansen to push for climate action. The lawsuit rests on the novel argument that the government has knowingly violated the plaintiffs’ rights to a “safe” climate by taking actions—such as subsidizing fossil fuels—that cause warming. Government lawyers under both President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama have repeatedly tried and failed to have the case thrown out. Just last week, Aiken, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, denied a bid to stop the trial, which was set to open on 29 October. But the Supreme Court then froze the case while it considers the government’s argument that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit has fatal legal flaws.”
– Julie Rosen, SCIENCE, 24OCT18