12-9-13 – Our New Constitutional Right?

by John McClaughry

Dr. James Hansen was for years the head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA. He was the scientist who ignited Al Gore’s passionate interest in somehow stopping humankind from causing the approaching climate catastrophe – which 20 years later clearly isn’t happening despite a steady rise in human greenhouse gas emissions.

Now Hansen has issued a study supporting a group of young people who are in federal court demanding that the court create for them a constitutional right to a safe climate,.

“Our study”, Hansen told CNN, “was written in support of a lawsuit against the federal government. The plaintiffs are young people, those to whom we are handing an increasingly warmer and destabilized planet. They argue that they have a constitutional right to a safe climate, that they have a right to receive from us a planet that supports all life, just as our forebears gave us.”

There’s a lot of food for thought here.

What exactly is a safe planet? A planet with no more hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, heat waves, cold snaps, ice storms, floods and droughts, sort of like Hawaii for everybody (without tsunamis)?

What makes Hansen believe that any conceivable combination of human actions could produce such a planet?

If a judge discovered such a right – no small legal feat! – what would the court order somebody (who?)  to do about it?

Could the judge hold the entire U.S. government in contempt for failing to do it, at a cost of trillions of dollars?

Would the judge excuse Obama as a defendant on Obama’s plea that it was the Republicans in Congress who prevented his compliance?

I recently heard somebody described as a few walnuts short of a fruitcake, and Hansen’s latest lawsuit enthusiasm brings that to mind again.

John McClaughry is the founder and current vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

laurel laframboise December 17, 2013 at 3:27 am

When I wrote my “ideal” US constitutional amendment (www.votekiss.org) the first section required the constitution to be interpreted as originally intended and amended. The second section, however, brought the constitution up-to-date by adding those 20th century civil rights most of us accept or would like to see, but are unconstitutional as originally intended.

The first of those rights is for a safe and sustainable natural, built, and social environment, without unnecessary interference in states and individual rights. John, I don’t think you’ll find many Americans wishing to turn back the clock to the days turds floated down Vermont rivers and lakes were so acidic they had no fish–before the Clean Air and Water Act. When highways didn’t have the safety features installed, building codes were non-existent, and terrorists could easily hijack planes and fly them into buildings.

Whether or not you believe we impact climate change, you cannot deny that 7 billion humans put a severe strain on the Earth’s resources. I believe it is our sacred duty to protect God’s creation and preserve it for future generations. Nitpicking the word “safe” is beneath you–you know those young people don’t expect natural disasters to disappear, only man-made ones–and there are plenty of those!


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