Washington Judge Just Dealt a Blow to the Youth-Led Fight Over Climate Change

But there’s still reason for hope: Another similar suit is headed to a federal court.

Youth plaintiffs in a climate change lawsuit marched in Olympia in February. Robin Loznak/ZUMA Wire

In a blow to young climate activists, a Seattle judge dismissed a lawsuit on Tuesday that alleged Washington state had violated children’s rights by failing to protect them from climate change.

King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott wrote that he hopes the 13 young plaintiffs, who range in age from 8 to 18, won’t be discouraged, but there is no right to a healthy environment and a stable climate system codified in the state constitution, the Associated Press reported

The plaintiffs in the case, Aji P. v. State of Washington, are supported by Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit legal organization that also supports Juliana v. United States. Similar to the Washington state lawsuit, Juliana argues that the federal government has created an energy system that causes climate change and therefore deprives the youth plaintiffs of their “constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.” The US Supreme Court last month allowed Juliana to proceed by halting the Trump administration’s application for a stay. Although Aji P.‘s dismissal in Washington marked a setback for the activists, a favorable decision in Juliana has the potential for sprawling nationwide impact.

In dismissing the Washington case, Scott wrote that the plaintiffs’ charges were political questions, which cannot be resolved by a court. The young activists plan to appeal, according to a statement from Andrew Welle​, co-counsel for plaintiffs and staff attorney at Our Children’s Trust, who noted that the US Supreme Court’s recent order in Juliana signals the judiciary “has a duty to resolve constitutional claims of this nature.”

“Given the urgency of climate change and the important constitutional issues involved, the political branches of government cannot be immune from liability for the constitutional climate crisis of their own making,” Welle said. 

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate