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US Appeals court throws out lawsuit by children seeking to force action on climate crisis

21:05  17 january  2020
21:05  17 january  2020 Source:   cnn.com

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a group of people posing for the camera© Robin Loznak/Our Children's Trust

A federal appeals court on Friday threw out a heavily promoted but long-shot lawsuit by a group of children and teenagers trying to force the federal government to take action to address the climate crisis.

The 2-1 ruling says the children must look to the political branches -- Congress and the executive branch -- for action, rather than the courts.

Action in Washington, however, has gone the other way, with the Trump administration pulling out of the Paris climate accord and looking to rewrite Obama-era environmental laws limiting greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the increase in global temperatures and associated effects of climate change.

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"The plaintiffs have made a compelling case that action is needed; it will be increasingly difficult in light of that record for the political branches to deny that climate change is occurring, that the government has had a role in causing it, and that our elected officials have a moral responsibility to seek solutions," the majority opinion states.

"We reluctantly conclude, however, that the plaintiffs' case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large, the latter of which can change the composition of the political branches through the ballot box. That the other branches may have abdicated their responsibility to remediate the problem does not confer on Article III courts, no matter how well-intentioned, the ability to step into their shoes."

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The lawsuit began in 2015 during the Obama administration. The children suing allege their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property are being violated by a US government that is knowingly promoting the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, which cause dangerous levels of warming, raising sea levels and promoting droughts and storms.

They also say they have a right to a safe atmosphere, and that they are being discriminated against as young people who will bear outsize consequences of the climate emergency.

Judges Andrew Hurwitz and Mary Murguia were in the majority. Judge Josephine Staton dissented. All three were nominated by President Barack Obama.

In her stinging dissent, Staton said the government is blatantly ignoring the climate crisis.

"In these proceedings, the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response -- yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses," Staton wrote. "Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation."

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