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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Youth Spend Day in Court Fighting for Climate Change Protection

From Wild Earth Guardians:  Governments failure to act is endangering the well-being of future generations

Today, New Mexico youth and WildEarth Guardians will go to New Mexico First Judicial District Court to defend their right to a healthy earth and sustainable future. They hope that Judge Sarah Singleton will rule in their favor in what experts have called one of the most remarkable legal actions that has the potential to halt human-induced climate change.

On May 4, 2011, seven young plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Governor Martinez and the State of New Mexico, No. D-101-CV-2011-1514, to compel the State to prevent further increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and to compel government action in reducing CO2 emissions. Though 16-year-old plaintiff Akilah is young, she has been fighting to protect the environment for many years through environmental service projects along the Rio Grande and educating the youth of the State about the imminence of the climate change crisis through her leadership role in Kids vs. Global Warming.  WildEarth Guardians works to replace fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy in order to safeguard public health, the environment, and the Earth’s climate for future generations.

Akilah’s and WildEarth Guardians’ drive in entering the lawsuit also comes from the alarming research of our nation’s top scientists. According to leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, “the science is crystal clear—we must rapidly reduce fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions if we are to have a chance of protecting Earth’s natural systems for these young people.”

The New Mexico lawsuit is part of a larger, innovative climate litigation strategy—the international iMatter Trust Campaign. As part of this campaign, youth plaintiffs launched legal actions in 49 states and the District of Columbia, in addition to a federal lawsuit.

The young plaintiffs have based their lawsuit on the Public Trust Doctrine, which requires sovereign governments to manage and protect vital, natural resources for the common benefit of its citizens. By evoking this doctrine, the plaintiffs are not asking for monetary or punitive damages. They are instead petitioning the court to require that the State of New Mexico fulfill its obligation to protect the climate from excessive greenhouse gas emissions, which will ultimately protect New Mexico’s resources for future generations.

There is evidence that New Mexico is particularly vulnerable to climate change and must develop and implement an informed plan to protect the State’s public trust resources. In its Statement of Reasons for adopting Greenhouse Gas Cap and Trade Provisions issued on November 10, 2010, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board acknowledged that “[c]limate change caused by anthropogenic emissions of GHGs will have a particularly severe impact o[n] the American Southwest, including New Mexico. The warming trends in this region are double the annual global average.”

According to Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, attorney for the plaintiffs, “our State has an obligation to our youth to ensure the protection of natural resources on which their security and livelihood depends.  That is the essence of the public trust, and it is broken when it comes to climate.”

In July of last year, the State of New Mexico and Governor Martinez filed a motion to dismiss the case.

To protect Earth’s natural systems and our way of life, the consensus among scientists is that average global surface heating must not exceed 1 °C and CO2 concentrations must decline to less than 350 parts per million this century (we are currently over 390 ppm). To accomplish this reduction, Dr. James Hansen and other renowned scientists conclude that carbon dioxide emissions need to peak in 2012 and decline by 6% per year starting in 2013.

If this is not accomplished, the predicted human-induced impacts of climate change in New Mexico are severe. In a recent report by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Reclamation predicted a temperature increase of 5-6°F for the Upper Rio Grande Basin in the 21st century, accompanied by a decrease in precipitation.  Consequences of increased temperatures include decreased snow pack, decreased water availability for agriculture, and reduced habitat for riverine species. Hotter temperatures coupled with decreased precipitation will pose challenges to human health and increase the risk of wildfires, which threaten the State’s forests, ecosystems, and rural populations.

Despite the plaintiffs’ formidable scientific and legal claims, the state is asking that the public trust case be dismissed. Today, state attorneys will raise jurisdictional defenses in an attempt to prevent the court from hearing the substance of the case.  Ultimately, it will be Judge Singleton, who will consider the arguments and decide whether to give New Mexico youth a chance to state their case on the merits and move one step closer to a real climate recovery plan.

“If our government doesn’t act quickly to plan for my future, fossil fuel emissions will dictate the future of my entire generation,” says plaintiff Akilah Sanders-Reed.  “I’m not old enough to vote yet, but I have rights.  I hope the court will do the right thing and hear our case.”

January 25, 2012 at 09:00 AM in Action Alerts, Children and Families, Climate, Energy, Environment, Santa Fe | Permalink

Comments

The hearing in Santa Fe's First Judicial Court is Thursday 1/26 at 9:00 AM.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Jan 25, 2012 9:08:45 AM

Here's the contact info for the courthouse:

Santa Fe Mailing Address:
First Judicial District Court
P.O. Box 2268
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-2268
Phone: (505) 455-8250
Fax: (505) 455-8280

PHYSICAL ADDRESS:
100 Catron Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Jan 25, 2012 9:57:12 AM

since these young plantiffs, Wild Earth Guardians and their lawyers are citing Dr. Hansen, they should read http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110729_BabyLauren.pdf by him, particularly the part beginning on page 3, "United States and World Electricity Generation", and continuing through "The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy" that begins on page 5.

Posted by: Paul Lindsey | Jan 25, 2012 12:08:54 PM