22 November 2015

A Judge Just Ruled for the Environment

Eight young people -- preteens and teens -- went to the Washington State Department of Ecology last year and asked them to write carbon emissions guidelines that would protect the state, and themselves, from the effects of climate change. When the state refused, they sued, with the help of the Children's Trust and an attorney from the Western Environmental Law Center.

They won. They won!

Judge Hollis R. Hill ruled that the government has a responsibility to protect natural resources on behalf of the people of the future.

Judge Hill wrote:
... as Petitioners assert and this court finds, their very survival depends upon the will of their elders to act now, decisively and unequivocally, to stem the tide of global warming…. The scientific evidence is clear that the current rates of reduction mandated by Washington law… cannot ensure the survival of an environment in which Petitioners can grow to adulthood safely.
Judge Hill reviewed the Washington State constitution, climate science, and statements made by the Department of Ecology, and concluded:
the state has a constitutional obligation  to protect the public’s interest in natural resources held in trust for the common benefit of the people.”
He also commented in particular on the role of automobile emissions and the failure of the state to deal with them. If you're so inclined, you can go read the whole ruling here.

Who knows? I don't know how many other state constitutions make reference to an obligation to protect natural resources. I don't know what potential there is for this to set precedent. But for the kids of Washington State, it's a pretty big deal.