Keep courts off of the climate policy playground

Donald Kochan

Cute kids and climate change make for compelling headlines. But the case of Juliana v. United States is a little too cute for the Constitution and a whole lot too complex for the courts.

After a hearing before a three-judge panel in June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is presently considering whether to allow a novel case to proceed to trial where a group of children are ambitiously asserting that the federal government is violating their rights by not enacting better policies to deal with climate change.

Quite simply, these plaintiffs in the Juliana case are asking the judicial branch to tell the elected branches what policies to adopt. Such relief would pervert the courts and deform the Constitution.

The most important controversies over the Juliana court case are not about climate change. And the key issues in this court case are not about whether government could or should do more as a policy matter to prevent climate change, abate its impacts or even make up for any potential past bad decisions. The real issue of concern with the Juliana case is about what branches of our government have authority to make policy decisions on climate change (or any other matter of societal preferences). The true stakes are about the preservation of our constitutional system where policy is made in the elected branches, not the courts.

Click here to read more of this Hill article by Donald Kochan.