Donald Trump’s election to the presidency is a devastating blow to the environmental community, coming at a crucial juncture in the fight against climate change. As Rebecca Leber and Ben Adler write for Grist, nearly all of President Barack Obama’s climate legacy probably will be undone in the Trump administration. With both Congress and and the presidency in the hands of people who claim not to believe in climate science and federal agencies soon to be headed by officials with ties to the fossil fuel industry, environmental activists have few places where they can turn to pressure government to strengthen our national climate agenda.
If Trump fulfills his promise to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, America will become the only major polluter in the world to declare its unwillingness to work with an international community trying to stop climate change and alleviate the damage that’s already been done.
But a ruling yesterday by a federal judge in Eugene, Oregon, could provide an avenue for climate action via the courts. Judge Ann Aiken ruled that 21 young Americans can proceed to trial in a suit against the Obama administration. The suit alleges that the government has known about climate change for decades but failed to address it, denying these children and teenagers their right to a safe future.
The key part of Aiken’s ruling is that last bit: The assertion that young people have a legal right to a stable climate. There is “no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society,” Aiken wrote. “Just as marriage is the ‘foundation of the family,’ a stable climate system is quite literally the foundation of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.’”