The youth are asking our courts to declare:
- The atmosphere is a resource we all share;
- Since the atmosphere is a shared resource, it must be protected, in trust, by our governments; and That protection means adopting and implementing Climate Recovery Plans.
- These plans, based on the best available science, would establish peak global carbon dioxide emissions by 2012, reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by at least 6 percent every year, and commit to widespread reforestation.
The science is undeniable. Earth’s climate is changing due to the excessive amount of carbon humans have been adding to the atmosphere during the past two centuries. Nature’s cycle is thrown out of balance and resulting in more frequent and longer droughts, floods, heat waves storms, wildfires and species extinction.
This change is not only affecting our environment, but human existence is also in danger. According to a study published on September 2009 in Nature, “A Safe Operating Space for Humanity,” human activities have already reached irreversible tipping points in 3 out of 10 separate natural systems considered crucial for human existence. Scientists warn that exceeding these tipping points further will threaten the ecological life-support systems and severely devastate the viability of contemporary human societies.
According to a 2009 report from the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, here are just a few statistics of climate change impacts to human existence so far:
- From 2000 to 2004, an estimated 262 million people worldwide were affected by climate disasters annually.
- Vulnerabilities to violent conflicts, especially for women and children, related to critical economic, social and political problems will be on the rise for 46 countries, which is home to 2.7 billion people.
- As a result of unstable food production cycles related to sensitivities to global temperature shifts, it is estimated that 600 million people will face malnutrition.
- Currently an estimated 1.1 billion people globally do not have access to safe drinking water, which is a major cause of morbidity and disease.
- It is estimated that by 2050, 150 million people could be displaced by climate-related phenomena, such as desertification, increasing water scarcity, and floods and storms. Human migration is assessed to be the greatest single impact of climate change, especially within poorer regions and countries.
Hard to believe, but the good news is we still have a chance to restore the balance to climate change. The bad news is time is running out and governments around the world are not addressing the issue with the urgency it deserves.
The most basic role of a government is to protect its citizens from dangers too large and complex for individuals to deal with on their own. Global warming is just such a danger. Any legitimate government has a duty to protect the air, the water, and all the other natural systems that sustain its people. Everyone has a right to a livable environment and a livable future -- the young and the old, the powerful and the voiceless, present generations and those not yet born.
Runaway climate change is one of the biggest human rights challenges of our time and threatens us all.
More About Atmopsheric Trust Litigation (ATL)
Atmospheric Trust Litigation (ATL) uses the Public Trust Doctrine, a legal doctrine enshrined in every civilized government to hold governments responsible for protecting the resources we all share in common and depend upon for our very survival, such as air, water, forests and wildlife. The Public Trust Doctrine embodies the human rights principle of intergenerational justice which, simply put, means that current generations cannot continue on their current, destructive path and leave the planet damaged for future generations.
When you combine the Public Trust Doctrine with the passionate youth who are fighting for a livable future, the result is ATL, an advocacy movement that can provide the legal mandate needed to compel governments to address the climate crisis. ATL provides young people from across the country a way to hold their government accountable for failing to safeguard the atmosphere they will inherit.
iMatter campaign | Our Children’s Trust | WITNESS Point of Contact: Kelly Matheson