Wednesday, December 14, 2016

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

Dr. James Hanson & Granddaughter Sophie

Beginning of the Hansen et al. transcript:
Jim: Hi, I’m Jim Hansen Director of the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Program at the Columbia University Earth Institute, and this is my granddaughter, Sophie.

Sophie: Hi, I’m Sophie Kivlehan. I am one of the 21 young people who, along with my grand-father, filed a lawsuit against our federal government concerning human-caused climate change.

Our government has taken deliberate actions that violate the rights of all people to life, liberty and property. Young people will suffer the most from these actions of our government, but all people are affected, and it’s important that the public understand this situation.

Our democracy provides ways to fix problems, to find a path to a bright future for all people.

But a democracy can work only if the public understands the situation and supports effective policies that are designed for all the public.

Jim: Yes, let’s talk about two things. First, the lawsuit, because it illustrates how the judiciary, the courts, can be used not only in the U.S., but in most countries – how courts can help force the government to do its job --- protect the well-being of all citizens.

Second, let’s talk about actions needed by the other branches of government, which in the U.S. are the President and Congress. The public must understand what is needed and demand it.

Otherwise the swamp in Washington, the financial special interests, will make policy for us.

Sophie: So, starting with the lawsuit: it was filed in the United States District Court in Oregon, which is just one level below the United States Supreme Court.

We, the plaintiffs, allege that the federal government is taking actions to aid and encourage extraction and burning of fossil fuels, even though they are well aware of the consequences for climate change and the harm it will cause, especially for young people and future generations.

As Judge Ann Aiken of the Oregon Court summarizes in her Opinion and Order, we, the Plaintiffs, draw a direct causal line between the defendants’ policy choices and floods, food shortages, destruction of property, species extinctions, and a host of other harms.

We ask only that the Court direct the Defendants to develop a plan to reduce CO2 emissions, at a rate that science indicates will stabilize climate and preserve a planet that can sustain our lives.

Jim: The Defendants, the President, his Science Adviser, and various Departments of the U.S. government, were joined by Interveners, the American Petroleum Institute and other fossil fuel interests, in asking the Court to dismiss the case on various technical grounds.

Judge Aiken, in her Opinion and Order issued on the 10th of November, affirms an earlier rejection by Judge Coffin of the Defendants’ request for dismissal – but she does much more.

Judge Aiken’s emphatic Opinion and Order is remarkable for clarity and scholarship. It will be a landmark analysis of government responsibility, with implications that dwarf those of prior court rulings on human-made climate change.

We will not take time today to discuss all the issues and conclusions that Judge Aiken makes. We focus on two technical but important topics: Due Process and Public Trust.
(Complete Transcript here, PDF). There is another Dredd Blog post on their right-to-life lawsuit (The Authoritarianism of Climate Change - 2).

Obama takes daughters to Deepwater Horizon Waters
Obama Drinks the Flint Kool-Aid
Barack Hansen Replaces Barack Bush?
Barry & Oil-Qaeda vs. Arctc Wilderness, 2

The next post in this series is here.

Once upon a "kinder, gentler nation"  (following song lyrics here)


  1. .......That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Many inside the beltway (PAC's)have never studied this extraordinary document that was designed to confront and overcome an analogous greed-based aggression and only see the Declaration of Independence as an impediment to ROI and shareholder value. It's easy for them to also suppose that 'everyone' has their same objectives. They will be most surprised to learn that many do not.

  2. A state judge has allowed a similar case to go forward in a state court. (link)