Published on Friday, January 02, 2015 by Common Dreams
‘There are laws of nature that we have to comply with,’ says legal scholar on final episode of Moyers & Company. ‘And those laws are supreme.’
by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
“Climate is not just an environmental issue,” professor Mary Christina Wood told Bill Moyers. “This is a civilizational issue.” (Photo: Mark Stevens/flickr/cc)
By caving to industry pressures, environmental regulatory agencies are failing to uphold their obligation to future generations, declared Mary Christina Wood, the author pushing a new legal framework to fight global warming, on the final episode of Moyers & Company.
Wood, a University of Oregon law professor who wrote Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age (2013; Cambridge University Press), advocates an idea called “atmospheric trust litigation,” which takes the fate of the Earth into the courts, arguing that the planet’s atmosphere—its air, water, land, plants, and animals—are the responsibility of government, held in its trust to insure the survival of all generations to come.
“If this nation relies on a stable climate system, and the very habitability of this nation and all of the liberties of young people and their survival interests are at stake the courts need to force the agencies and the legislatures to simply do their job.”
—Mary Christina Wood, University of Oregon Law School
“The heart of the approach is the public trust doctrine,” she told her host, longtime journalist and political commentator Bill Moyers. “And it says that government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival. And so a trust means that one entity or person manages a certain wealth, an endowment, so to speak, for the benefit of others. And in the case of the public trust, the beneficiaries are the present and future generations of citizens.”
The theory underpins lawsuits filed by Our Children’s Trust, which ask for the courts to order state and local governments and agencies to act more aggressively to bring down carbon emissions.
“[I]f this nation relies on a stable climate system, and the very habitability of this nation and all of the liberties of young people and their survival interests are at stake the courts need to force the agencies and the legislatures to simply do their job,” Wood explained.
Global Climate Change