A liberal federal district judge held on Nov. 10 that teenagers have a fundamental right to a “stable environment” and can sue for a court order to change the level of carbon emissions that humans emit into the atmosphere.
Seeking a federal court “to declare the United States’ current environmental policy infringes their fundamental rights” to a natural environment that is not impacted by manmade global warming, 21 young people (ages 9 through 20) filed suit against Barack Obama, various federal agencies, and the fossil fuel industry itself.
“Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law, and the world has suffered for it,” U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken of the District of Oregon wrote in the case Juliana v. United States.
Appointed by Bill Clinton, Aiken rejected the industry’s argument that she should dismiss the case because—among other reasons—even if everyone agreed that the earth is warming and that humans are responsible, a court is still not equipped to determine what to do about it. Brushing aside those objections, the judge said that all she needed to do was “determine what emissions level would be sufficient to” end global warming, and then order everyone is this country to change their fossil fuel consumption accordingly.
The Constitution says nothing about a fundamental right to any sort of environment—“stable” or otherwise. Constitutional rights are given as a charter of “negative liberties”—a series of “thou shalt nots,” such as saying the government shall not take away free speech, or shall not infringe religious liberty, or shall not ban gun ownership.
The concept of “affirmative rights”—that the government owes a person healthcare, or housing, or here, a particular type of environment—has been a wish list for political liberals that the courts have never embraced.
The defendants can now take this matter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.