Oral arguments were heard on Tuesday in a long-running lawsuit brought by two teenagers against the state of Oregon. The teens are seeking to force the state to take more aggressive action on climate change and thereby better protect the planet for future generations.
The suit is one of dozens of legal actions and petitions filed in virtually every state, along with federal courts, as part of a campaign spearheaded by the Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust. “Our purpose is to protect earth’s natural systems for current and future generations,” the organization declares on its Web site. “We are here to empower and support youth as they stand up for their lawful inheritance: a healthy planet.
The legal actions are predicated on what’s known as the Public Trust Doctrine, a principle of common law that requires governments to protect and maintain certain resources for the benefit of the wider community. The petitioners sponsored by Our Children’s Trust seek to have the atmosphere included as a common resource that governments are obliged to maintain and protect for the public good — both now and for future generations.