“Right to a Safe Climate” Suit Heads to Alaska High Court

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“Right to a Safe Climate” Suit Heads to Alaska High Court

The justices of the Alaskan Supreme Court will soon be hearing a case that poses a unique question – is the state’s promotion of fossil fuels responsible for hurting young Alaskans’ right to a safe climate?

 

The young plaintiffs filing this lawsuit contend that the climate is something that should be held in the public trust like wildlife or air. The state, they say, is harming this climate by promoting the use of fossil fuels. Alaska has a large petroleum industry as well as a state law that calls on the state to support using fossil fuels. Under the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking to have this state fossil fuel law overruled and to require the state to come up with a climate change recovery plan.

 

The basis of the suit is the allegation that the use of fossil fuels by Alaska is causing climate change that will, within the lifetime of young Alaskans, cause irreparable harm. Some of the Alaskans filing the suit are natives whose villages have suffered from rising sea levels.

 

Those opposing the suit argue that the courts are not the place to resolve questions of climate change. Instead, they say, this is best left to scientists to determine what is causing this change and what could be done to mitigate it. Then legislators, not judges, should decide what steps should be taken.

 

Similar lawsuits have been thrown out by Alaska courts in the past, but this one has survived legal scrutiny so far. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on October 9, then render a decision if this case can go to trial.

 

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