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

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

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. 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly 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