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Earth Government The Courts United States Politics News

High School Students Sue Federal Gov't Over Global Warming 491

Hugh Pickens writes "Katherine Ellison reports in the Atlantic that a group of high school students is suing the federal government in U.S. District Court claiming the risks of climate change — dangerous storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and food-supply disruptions — will threaten their generation absent a major turnabout in global energy policy. 'I think a lot of young people realize that this is an urgent time, and that we're not going to solve this problem just by riding our bikes more,' says 18-year-old Alec Loorz, one of the plaintiffs represented, pro bono, by the Burlingame, California, law firm of former U.S. Republican congressman Paul 'Pete' McCloskey. While skeptics may view the case as little more than a publicity stunt, its implications have been serious enough to attract the time and resources of major industry leaders." (Read more, below.)
Pickens continues: "Last month, Judge Wilkins granted a motion to intervene in the case by the National Association of Manufacturers who says the plaintiffs lack standing because their injuries are too speculative and not likely to be reduced by the relief sought. 'At issue is whether a small group of individuals and environmental organizations can dictate through private tort litigation the economic, energy, and environmental policies of the entire nation,' wrote NAM spokesman Jeff Ostermeyer. The plaintiffs contend that they have standing to sue under the 'public trust doctrine,' a legal theory that in past years has helped protect waterways and wildlife. While the adults continue their argument, Loorz says kids his age are much more worried about climate change than many of their parents might imagine. "
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High School Students Sue Federal Gov't Over Global Warming

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:14AM (#39993355)

    Case dismissed.

    You cannot sue for something that has not yet happened. Period.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by P-niiice ( 1703362 )
      It's already begun, and there are actual damages that can be sued for if it needed to come to that.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:22AM (#39993395)

        YOU, as the plaintiff, have to show that YOU have actual standing by showing that YOU have sustained damages from the direct action or inaction of whomever you are suing.

        This isn't about whether climate change is occurring or not occurring. Its about legal procedures and rules.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:11AM (#39993757)

          No, this is about adults exploiting clueless kids for their own crusade. This is the reality TV version of "Think of the children."

        • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:23AM (#39993835)

          YOU, as the plaintiff, have to show that YOU have actual standing by showing that YOU have sustained damages from the direct action or inaction of whomever you are suing.

          Actually, you don't: Public trust doctrine. [wikipedia.org] It's in TFA.

        • Odd, isn't it. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          When it comes to a presumption that IN THE FUTURE there will be a pension crisis, there is work done NOW to "solve" it for the current to-be-retired generation, decreasing benefit and increasing charges for the next generation. No proof, no standing, nothing at all needed, just the fearful statement "pension crisis looms". Yet when it comes to the pension of the next generation, which WILL be removed by the collapse of a society that can have retired old people drawing down a wage, where the costs of paying

        • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

          It is also about willful negligence. Once you start down that path, a few things change a bit. Much like my first response to you...there's a potential path they might just be on wherein they COULD sue. Since you missed the little detail about suing over something before it happens in the context of the Constitutionality of a given law, there's a clear indication that you're not 100% correct and shouldn't be modded "informative" like you have.

        • YOU, as the plaintiff, have to show that YOU have actual standing by showing that YOU have sustained damages from the direct action or inaction of whomever you are suing.

          Wow. Then if these kids had decided to sue over the national debt and its future burden on them, they'd have blown the Government out of the water entirely.

      • by kick6 ( 1081615 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:27AM (#39993423) Homepage

        and there are actual damages that can be sued for

        Actual damages caused by the defendant? The US federal government is out there in the artic with hair dryers melting polar ice to raise sea level which explicitly injured the plaintiff?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      People file injunctions against doing things that hasn't happened yet ALL the time... what are you talking about?

      want to build a prison? a highway? a dam?

    • You cannot sue for something that has not yet happened. Period.

      I've heard of somthing called "injunctive relief." I've also heard of courts issuing "protective orders."

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:17AM (#39993803)

      Maybe they should file suit about the $14trn of boomer debt that their generation will have to service for the rest of their lives?

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:18AM (#39993373)

    Gee, that's shocking. My uncle in the mid 1960s was worried about The Bomb, and kids in my era fretted over ecological disaster.

    Neither happened.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And therefore nothing bad ever will. Right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by p0p0 ( 1841106 )
      You mean like the bombs used in World War 2?
      Or the ecological disasters like the garbage islands in each major ocean and the continued clear-cutting of thrid-world countries, to name a few?

      Long term thought does not seem to be something you're capable of, and is a handicap for most people. We weren't programmed to think long term so it literally is a difficult concept for some people.
      • Refuting histrionics with histrionics does your case no good.

        "...Or the ecological disasters like the garbage islands in each major ocean ..."

        Garbage islands? Really?
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch [wikipedia.org]

        We're talking about a density of 5kg per square kilometer, of pieces that are mostly too small to be seen.

        If that's an "island", Hawaii would be what, a Neutron Star?

        The plastic particulates are a concern, and should be reduced. Claiming it's an ISLAND just makes you look like a Chicken

    • by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:30AM (#39993447)

      I think the fact that the latter could be combated with just a modicum of giving a shit adds more insult to injury.

      There wasn't a fucking thing Joe Blow could do about The Bomb back during the height of the Cold-War, but something as simple as not generating extraneous waste gets the most ridiculous resistance out of people these days. I have known people that chose not to recycle because "fuck it." Until gas prices got insane, I knew people that would drive 2 blocks away to the corner store to get a candy bar rather than walk. Even something as simple as turning the thermostat up during the summer and down during the winter by a few degrees would result in enormous savings in fossil fuels, but again, there is an insane number of people out there that don't give a single fuck about the environment and a fair amount of people that, it seems, are hostile towards green initiatives solely because "fuck you", like the aforementioned people that refuse to recycle.

      It's funny, but 70 years ago American society embraced rationing to support the war effort and beat the Axis, but trying to get society as a whole to embrace green technology is an exercise in futility, and many of these people are the children of those that grew up in that time period in the first place. Did all those lessons not get passed on from the WWII generation or what?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nutria ( 679911 )

        a fair amount of people that, it seems, are hostile towards green initiatives solely because "fuck you"

        Could it be that they're tired rightly or wrongly of Big Government (from the Federal level thru State, County, City and Homeowners Association) telling them how to live?

        Did all those lessons not get passed on from the WWII generation or what?

        No, apparently they didn't. From the "Greatest" Generation directly to the "Me" Generation is stunning. I blame "The Greatest Generation", TV and 1960s Progressivism (the results of which are still being felt in society).

        Progressivism because (1) flag burning and riots and meeting with the North Vietnamese in Cuba tends to transmit to eve

        • by Iskender ( 1040286 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:53AM (#39994081)

          Progressivism because (1) flag burning and riots and meeting with the North Vietnamese in Cuba tends to transmit to everyone else, no matter what your pious words are, that you hate your country, thus breaking societal cohesion and (2) TV and movies -- of which all/majority of the writer were Progressive -- starting in the 1970s coarsening the culture with ever increasing amounts of foul language in movies and TV while eliminating cultural norms like good manners: children saying Please, Thank You, Sir & Ma'am, thus destroying the social lubricant

          I think you have cause and effect reversed. If there was such great social cohesion, then where did these society-destroying people come from? Where did the riots come from?

          Social change had already happened. The societal cohesion you talk about was already gone, and had perhaps been a faÃade in the first place - Middletown pressured everyone into behaving 'properly', but that everyone really was like that doesn't necessarily follow.

          You can't have perfect social cohesion and riots at the same time. Some liked the old order and some didn't, and both groups were citizens. Both groups were also equally led by leaders and ideologies - there wasn't one group which "followed its heart" and another that was brainwashed by media.

      • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:08AM (#39993739) Homepage Journal

        Maybe part of the attitude comes from the hypocrisy of many of the people telling everyone else they should drive smaller cars and turn down their thermostat, while they themselves lead lavish, jet-setter lifestyles of opulent luxury. Kind of hard to take seriously when someone says, "Hey, you can't expect to keep using all that fossil fuel. We'll talk more when we get back from our Hawaiian vacation and our teen gets back from her spring break in Cancun."

      • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#39993881)

        hostile towards green initiatives solely because "fuck you"

        I'm hostile toward them because I'm too smart. Most (all?) of those initiatives are meaningless feel good frippery with no real world effect, or NEGATIVE real world effect. They require stupid people. Not gonna work on me.

        Example, the people who just don't give a F about recycling at the office. We are pure, refined evil, right? Where I work, they purchased extra recycling trash cans and distributed them all over and the idiots blathered on about how we're all going to save the planet by sorting our trash, printed posters hanging everywhere. No one, including myself, noticed we still only have one trash dumpster, not a trash dumpster and a recycling dumpster, how... interesting. As a tech guy I work odd hours, and I get to see the illegal alien cleaning crew pushing a big rolling trash collector around the office and dumping both trash and recycling into the same rolling collector, and that collector dumps mixed trash and recyclables into the same dumpster, and odd mornings that I'm here early I see that dumpster emptied into one trash truck. I know they're not sorting at the landfill, either. So the idiots think they're saving the world, but I know the real world effect is we turned a lot of crude oil into plastic recycling cans, waste lots of money buying those cans, waste time and money proselytizing to people, waste valuable time and money sorting trash that is going to be commingled by the cleaning crew anyway, and finally waste time emptying twice as many trash cans. What a huge amount of environmental damage to fool people into thinking they're preventing environmental damage. I'm sure some minor drone got a nice promotion out of it. So, yeah, I'm one of the insane number of "F you" people who throws my empty soda cans into the regular trash can because apparently I don't want to save the planet.

        I have special knowledge about the recyclables/trash issue because of weird working hours. I would assume the same scammers running the same psychological confidence scam in other areas are also not doing anything useful for the environment. Maybe accidentally once in a while they occasionally do something useful by mistake, but on average the environment would be better served by those kind of folks if they merely piled up cash in my backyard and set it on fire. So, yeah, in general, F those people and their goals, they're all scammers.

        What does work is financial. So I'm painting my house.. I could use oil and have to buy "bad for the environment" mineral oil solvent to clean the brushes, or I could use latex paint and clean the brushes with practically free water... Thats how I save the environment from hydrocarbon vapor / ozone pollution, by saving money. The actual cost of gasoline is about $8/gallon and thats what it should be at the pump, instead of being cheaper and the balance paid by "stealth" taxation. Higher gas prices would fix a lot of environmental problems.

        • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

          But your saving the world by saving money won't work- at some threshold your little philosophy about gasoline raises the prices on everything by stealth taxation the other way.

          You're no better than the scammers you call out and you claim what you claim just so you can feel good about the other.

        • Heh, awesome recycling story.

          I've come to the conclusion that if someone isn't paying you to recycle, then the recycling is probably fake or scammy.

          When you keep your aluminum cans and take 'em to the aluminum recyclers and they pay you, that's strong evidence that someone is really going to use the cans, and surely they're paying because it still costs them less to use those cans, than to mine and refine more bauxite. (Although there's always the terrifying prospect that there's some stupid subsidy or ta

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          I'm hostile toward them because I'm too smart.

          No comment.

          I have special knowledge about the recyclables/trash issue because of weird working hours.

          OK, I'll comment on this. I'd say you have knowledge of the particular cleaning service that works in your building.

          In my town we have separate trucks them come around for recycling. They take the contents of our red bins to a recycling center where the glass and different grades of plastic are separated and ground into feed materials for more stuff. We also have a volunteer led recycling group that organizes regular hazardous waste and large item recycling days that makes it really easy to dea

    • by htomc42 ( 2547444 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:00AM (#39993663)
      Of course kids are scared about global warming/climate change/whatever. For years now, it has been pushed on them relentlessly in the public schools. Remember that 'Captain Planet' environmental cartoon from years back, where every industrialist/capitalist was evil and had to be defeated? That was just the beginning. The level of outright propaganda that kids receive would make Goebbels smile. And, of course, that is completely independent on whether or not there really -is- some sort of man-induced climate changes occurring, and to what degree. The sad thing is that -both- sides of this debate have become so hopelessly politicized, that its hard to tell just where the truth is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 )

        Well if they gotta be brainwashed, at least Captain Planet and Al Gore got to them before Anthony Watts and the Heartland Institute...better to be brainwashed into what happens to be scientifically supported than into science denial. You can recover from one of those.

  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:18AM (#39993377)

    DOD, and the US Navy in particular, have considered climate change to be a major national security issue for several years. There is no question that "climate change" is occurring. As usual, what is in question is:

    — Precisely what part human activity plays in concert with natural global climate cycles, and
    — Exactly how much the US and other First World nations should dramatically alter their economies and energy strategies while developing economies and other major economies (such as China and India) do comparatively nothing, absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means

    • Your right about the facts, however your wrong in your reasoning about the why. They aren't doing this because they think the sea is going to rise by several meters in the next few years.

      It doesn't really matter if climate change is 'real' or 'exaggerated' for their purposes though. All that matters is the popular perception that is value by the masses. If the masses feel that 'climate change' is a reason to pick up pitchforks and rise against the establishment than that is something is of international con

      • Think of it this way, one the largest reasons the Americans rebelled against the British was a tax rate that was perceived as significantly too high. That tax rate by the way the way was a fair bit lower than today's tax rate. (The Boston Tea Party was a /Tax Protest/ not an independence rally). This by the way is the source of the name of our modern 'Tea Party' in politics.

        The rate of tax wasn't the issue. The issue was being taxed by officials who weren't elected by the taxed citizens. Perhaps you've heard the phrase "no taxation without representation?" I must say, the Tea Party version ("no taxation") reflects rather poorly on the US Education system. I guess "mission accomplished" was referring to the growing masses of ignorant citizens.

    • by tirefire ( 724526 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:02AM (#39993691)

      DOD, and the US Navy in particular, have considered climate change to be a major national security issue for several years.

      Precisely why this lawsuit is teaching these kids a very bad lesson.

      If these kids are concerned about the climate's future, shouldn't they be studying ways to better predict and manage the climate? Winning the argument in a courtroom matters about as much as winning a debate tournament. Doing research and finding ways to get results could save countless lives.

      The Navy should be handing out research grants left and right (if it isn't doing so already) for research on climate management. If all the artic sea ice thawed, it would radically change the face of naval warfare for the US, and not for the better...

  • by GeneralTurgidson ( 2464452 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:19AM (#39993381)
    Instead of peace signs, they now have law degrees.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's a bigger threat to their future well-being.

    Ask the Greeks how well out-of-control spending works when you run out of other people's money to spend.

    • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:27AM (#39993429)

      Well no, the Greeks and everybody else can tell creditors to stick it up their collective asses. Ultimately, the economy of the whole world may fail, but it won't endanger our biotope. Screwing up the weather however can't be undone.

      Remember, debt is an artificial human construct. Global warning (if/when it happens) is reality. You can't dismiss reality.

      • Well no, the Greeks and everybody else can tell creditors to stick it up their collective asses. Ultimately, the economy of the whole world may fail

        It actually won't. That sort of thing happens all the time, for example, Russia did exactly that in the late 90s. The US did it in the 30s (and in the 70s, really). In the end, people will still want to produce things, and other people will still want to buy things, and bankers and governments will still over-estimate their role in the world economy.

    • Given the fact that most of the world's currency is based on the faith it's users have in it's value, I wouldn't be too sure that other people's money is going to be worth anything once society rolls over and refuses to play their game, and forcing austerity measures on a class of people that had little to do with the shit in the first place is one of the best ways you can make that happen.

      Atlas may be shrugging, but Atlas ain't "job creators" and capitalists, Atlas is the mob, and at the end of the day, th

  • At issue is whether a small group of individuals and corporations can dictate through political and military influence the economic, energy, and environmental policies of the entire planet.

  • Makes legal sense? Don't know enough to comment BUT I support the principle that political leaders must be accountable for their actions... and ignoring / downplaying global warming is a serious action in my book.

  • by J'raxis ( 248192 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:34AM (#39993471) Homepage

    from the good-thing-they-know-the-whole-script dept.

    Is that the "It's the end of the world! We're all going to die!" script or the "Oh, sorry, our predictions were wrong..." [slashdot.org] one?

  • by Subm ( 79417 )


    People looking to the government to lead on acting to protect the environment are going to wait a long time. To call members of Congress and the executive branch "leaders" mis-uses the term in this case.

    If we want to change, we are going to have to lead our government. Yeah, they should act in our interests, but they aren't. We can do something about it. If this lawsuit doesn't succeed, the next one will go farther. And the next one farther. Until the kids who are thinking about their lives eventually

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:00AM (#39993669)

    The social controls required for the US to reduce its emissions meaningfully must result in an eco-police state with massive Federal micromanagement.

    Other countries can and will take every advantage of this. So would I.

  • If they are below eighteen, they don't have a right to sue. If they are older than that, they are just as responsible as the rest of humanity.

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:07AM (#39993731)

    Somebody needs to educate these kids on how political change is really achieved in our system of government.

  • Publicity Stunt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:23AM (#39993847) Journal


    "I watched An Inconvenient Truth 2x in one night, that made me an environmental activist at 12."

    Aside from a host of Constitutional issues (I'm pretty certain that the court can't order the Executive branch to sign, nor the Legislative branch to approve, treaties), at a certain point isn't it parents' job to protect their kids from being used like this?

    We all know this will chew its way through the courts. A liberal judge will agree, an appellate court will overturn, the 9th Circuit (of course) will support, and it will go to the Supremes. These kids will become famous as "the face of activism of their generation".

    Do you think they're serious? Well they sure do:

    While the adults continue their argument, Loorz says kids his age are much more worried about climate change than many of their parents might imagine. Indeed, one British survey found that children between the ages of 11 and 14 worry more about climate change (74 percent) than about their homework (64 percent). "I used to play a lot of video games, and goof off, and get sent to the office at school," he said. "But once I realized it was my generation that was going to be the first to really be affected by climate change, I made up my mind to do something about it."

    LOL, wow, I'm convinced. He's even given up video games to pursue this. Well, ok; not "given up", just refocused.

    You know why this is a publicity stunt?

    http://www.usdebtclock.org/ [usdebtclock.org]
    $15 trillion.
    $50k per citizen
    $140k per taxpayer.

    These kids (and the gray eminences using them for publicity) are taking something that - even if it's happening, the human input is not nearly as well-proved as the Faithful would like us to believe - as a critical and *immediate* threat, while ignoring the real critical and immediate threat (but the approach of which would threaten the freedom of action of their own political sponsors).

    This is the equivalent of complaining to your neighbor about his dog crapping in your yard, while your house is burning down. It's either a publicity stunt or simply screwed-up priorities...either way it's a gross waste of time and resources. But hey, it's all about filling up the news cycle, not really about constructive actions anyway.

    This bit is chilling:

    "Sometimes I do ask myself, like is there really any chance to solve this problem?" Loorz acknowledged. "I feel a lot of despair sometimes, but when I talk to Dr. Hansen, he says there is still hope, so I have to trust that he knows more than I do about this."

    Leni Riefenstahl is absolutely laughing her ass off. Well played, Herr Gore. Well played.

  • by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:29AM (#39993887) Homepage
    ... and poorer logic. So let's just think about this for a moment. Do we really want government policy to be subject to control by lawsuits? If we do, there are at least three side effects to keep in mind.

    First, the use of government resources would shift from making and enforcing policy to defending policy in court. This would mean that the government would become ineffective, while still costing the same or more in both money and lost liberty to maintain it.

    Second, the opportunities for malicious mischief abound. I don't like the administration, so I will sue over every policy they try to implement. Even long-standing policy would be subject to suit. Fundraising will be good and easy.

    Legislatures and executive departments would become subordinate to courts, and judges could impose policy at whim, to a greater degree than they did at the height of judicial activism.

    For these reasons, it strikes me as a terrible idea to even attempt this. The suit should certainly be dismissed, and I wouldn't object to fining the adults involved for wasting the court's time. This is abuse of the system as it is, and would be utterly destructive of the courts and the law if allowed to proceed.

  • by ZenDragon ( 1205104 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:38AM (#39993947)
    Sounds to me like some nut job teacher pushing their political agenda on their students.
  • arguing their future is doomed because the government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends, and sticks these kids with the debt. Someday that'll be a crime with its own name, like holocaust or genocide. Hollowcost? noun. 1)The fraction of the cost of a government service shifted from the current generation onto future ones. 2) the crime of sticking your kids with debt for your non-asset-creating expenses (i.e., medicare, medicaid, social security, interest on the debt).

"Trust me. I know what I'm doing." -- Sledge Hammer