Juliana V. How the United States Can Improve Climate Action

In 2015, 21 young Americans, more than half of whom are black, indigenous and people of color, began the process of suing the US government. Known as the Constitutional Climate Case Juliana v. United StatesBy creating a national energy system that causes climate change, the executive branch asserts, „it has violated the life, liberty, and property rights of younger generations and failed to protect essential public trust resources.”

In the eight years since the suit was filed — spanning the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden — the U.S. Justice Department has issued several motions to delay the case or dismiss it entirely. Our Children’s Foundation, a public interest law firm representing young plaintiffs, described the Justice Department’s efforts as „relentless and unprecedented.” But as Another youth-led climate case awaits verdictThe youths of Juliana v. United States They are preparing for the investigation.

I recently spoke with 23-year-old Nathan Baring, a third-generation Alaskan and one of them Juliana v. United States Plaintiffs. From his home in Fairbanks, Baring discussed the historic significance of the case and the challenges of climate action in Alaska.

How did you get involved in the climate movement?

At about 12, I wrote my first letter to the teacher, and at the time it had nothing to do with climate change. It’s also associated with PM 2.5 and wood smoke pollution, which can be dangerous for young, developing lungs. Fairbanks sometimes has worse air quality in the winter than Beijing, and because of the poor air quality, my parents threatened to pull me out of soccer. That was very important to my 12-year-old self. So that was my first involvement in civic work.

After that I started going to scientific lectures at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, one of the world’s premier Arctic research universities. I began to learn all about how Alaska is changing dramatically due to climate change and what they refer to as the „new normal” – which is basically going to wipe out any semblance of the Arctic that one would have recognized 100 years ago. . That’s when I got involved in the statewide climate movement at the local level, and later at the state capital in Juneau, lobbying on state-specific policies like sustainable fisheries. When I was 15, our Children’s Foundation reached out to Alaska youth for environmental action. Juliana v. United States lawsuit, and when I chose to sue the government along with everyone else.

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As you mentioned, you joined the climate movement through activism and advocacy at the local and state level. It made you decide to get involved in climate action at the federal level Juliana v. United States?

As someone who is very legally stupid but doesn’t like the idea of ​​suing people, I justified joining the case for two reasons. As a 15-year-old, I had done every kind of civic activity one could do at that age without the right to vote, and I always felt that none of us were taken particularly seriously. But policy decisions on climate and energy do not reflect the next generation and the planet we will inherit over the brink. So even if we can’t vote, I think we deserve to have our voices heard, even if the legal system is a necessary constitutional bulwark when that voting system isn’t available or fails.

What really matters going forward is what the government should do about climate change, or not do in this case: promote, permit, lease, and subsidize fossil fuels.Never in American history has a federal court ruled constitutional. We know the system that disrupts the climate.

In the United States and abroad, the youth climate movement has been a powerful driver of climate action through protest, lobbying, and now legal action. How do you see it? Juliana v. United States Does litigation not only speed up the movement but also empower it?

One of the most powerful examples I’ve ever heard — and in our case it’s tied to what the civil rights arc looks like in a movement — is the story. Brown v. Board of Education. I didn’t know until recently that that particular legal movement began decades before the famous 1954 ruling that laid the groundwork for the Children’s Group case. I think this is very appropriate for us because it allowed us not only to continue the work of the motions that came before us, but also to seize the moment to bring this case to court, but since the case was filed, dozens of cases have been filed. All over the world that quotes us directly.

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So I think how we apply to the climate movement is similar to legal strategy Brown v. Board of Education Applies to the Civil Rights Movement. We are one of many legal challenges, but we do it together with people on the streets, artists, educators, and elected officials. This is now the type of our path, in fact, it takes every path.

Nathan Baring faced the challenges of climate justice work in Alaska, where many people depend on the oil industry.

As a third-generation Alaskan and the only Alaskan plaintiff in the case, you are involved in the Alaskan climate movement at the state and local level in different ways. Based on your personal and activist experiences, can you describe the state’s unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to both climate change and climate action?

I am one of two plaintiffs from a „red” leaning state and, of course, from an energy-dominant state. So climate justice work, as it is conceived elsewhere, certainly does not exist in Alaska. I think a big part of that is the absolute dominance of the oil industry. It plays a huge role in our economy and everyone’s job is linked to oil. People here don’t really think in terms of climate change or parts per million or carbon emissions. They’re thinking about what’s going to happen here as we move away from this energy system. Now, there is literally nothing in Alaska. Even some of my best friends work in the oil industry, and some don’t believe in climate change. But I can see their desperation, rather fear of losing everything. So labor justice and labor reform is huge.

And then, from a personal perspective, there’s really no way to conceive of climate justice in Alaska without Native sovereignty. The tribes in Alaska, who make up half of all tribes in the United States, protected the land, wildlife and ecosystems for 10,000 years before we set foot in the area. So that thinking will be critical to protecting the Arctic, or at least what’s left of the Arctic in the future.

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You have mentioned some powerful cases like Brown v. Board of Education It set a precedent for legal action that complements other forms of that type of activity. Now, as you begin to prepare for the trial, what are your hopes for the case and the legacy — regardless of the outcome — that it will leave?

It would be a very powerful statement if the court declared that the government’s actions were unconstitutional and that they should reverse course. When a court declares something, it is like that Juliana Case, that declaration of law – law. Then this law, [which ideally] Declaring a constitutional right to a sustainable climate would become the foundation of a movement that other legal movements would follow. We didn’t go alone. We never went alone.

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