Gov. Rick Scott sued by activists who want a constitutional right to a ‘stable climate’

DCNFMichael Bastasch, DCNF

Eight Florida youths filed suit against Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration on Monday for violating their right to a “stable climate” by not imposing regulations aimed at fighting global warming.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Meagan Schutter/Released)


Scott’s “deliberate indifference to their fundamental rights to a stable climate system in violation of Florida common law and the Florida Constitution,” reads the lawsuit complaint.

The “fossil fuel-based energy system created and operated by the Defendants does not and cannot ensure that Plaintiffs will grow to adulthood safely and enjoy the rights, benefits, and privileges of current generations of Floridians,” the lawsuit claims.

The youths, ages 10 to 19, “seek declaratory relief and an injunction compelling Defendants to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to stabilize the climate system and protect the vital natural resources on which Plaintiffs now and in the future will depend,” reads the complaint.

The lawsuit is supported by Our Children’s Trust, an activist group backing eight similar lawsuits in other states. It’s part of a multi-state effort by Our Children’s Trust to use the courts to create a right to a “stable climate” and force governments to issue regulations.

Most notably, Our Children’s Trust won a victory in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In early March, the court allowed a lawsuit brought by 21 youths against the U.S. government to proceed to trial.

The ruling only emboldened environmentalists, who have increasingly been turning to the courts to push global warming policies.

Beginning last year, eight California municipalities and New York City sued oil companies over global warming. Local governments, led by trial lawyers, argue nuisance and trespassing laws should be applied to fossil fuel companies that contribute to global warming.

Our Children’s Trust, on the other hand, argues public trust doctrine should be applied to the climate system. Under this view, the climate is a natural resource the government has to protect for the enjoyment of future generations.

However, law experts are skeptical that public trust can be applied to global warming. A 2014 Dartmouth Law Review article by Andrew Ballentine argued it’s a way to “circumvent unfavorable political outcomes with legal actions, which runs afoul of non-justiciability limitations.”

Anti-fossil-fuel environmental foundations support Our Children’s Trust. The Daily Caller News Foundation found in late 2017 the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation are among those that support the group.

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