Oregon residents Kelsey Juliana, 18, and Olivia Chernaik, 14, have filed suit against Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and the state government, claiming they haven’t done enough to protect present and future citizens from the effects of climate change.
“This could be a landmark decision on the question: Does government, as trustee over our essential natural resources, have to protect it from carbon pollution and the impacts of climate disruption?” said Our Children’s Trust Executive Director Julia Olson.
HuffPost reports that the Trust has supported “a suite of youth-led lawsuits since 2011,” but “the Oregon lawsuit is the furthest along, and the one to watch.” After a circuit court rejected the case, it “gained fresh traction in June, when the Oregon Court of Appeals ordered the lower court to decide whether the atmosphere is a public trust that the state has a duty to protect. The appeals court ruling reversed the lower court’s finding that state decisions about natural resources are political matters outside the court’s authority.”
Peeples explains the case is based on an “ancient legal principle” that dates back to Roman civil law. “The public trust doctrine states that governments must safeguard certain critical natural systems so current and future generations can benefit from them,” she writes. “It’s going to take one brave, compassionate judge to speak on our behalf,” Juliana says.