The Planet on the Docket: Atmospheric Trust Litigation to Protect Earth's Climate System and Habitability
20 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2014
Date Written: June 5, 2014
As our climate system nears catastrophic tipping points, the legal system has still not imposed comprehensive responsibility for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the habitability of the planet. While the federal government has taken some significant regulatory steps, they are not calibrated to achieve what many scientists contend is necessary to avert uncontrollable planetary heating and climate disruption. This paper describes an approach launched across the United States called Atmospheric Trust Litigation (ATL), which draws upon the public trust doctrine to hold governments accountable in protecting the atmosphere and climate system. ATL cases and petitions filed on behalf of youth demand climate recovery plans accompanied by regular carbon accountings showing emissions reduction in accordance with scientifically defined trajectories. This paper explains how the judiciary is positioned to enforce public trust rights in face of unprecedented urgency.
Keywords: global warming, public trust, public trust doctrine, climate disruption, climate change, climate crisis, atmospheric trust, atmospheric trust litigation
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