On May 14, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has failed to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as required by Massachusetts’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), which aimed to reduce the state’s GHG emissions to 25% below the 1990 level by 2020 80% by 2050. The court ordered the DEP to “promulgate regulations that address … greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released … and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”
The ruling came in a case filed on behalf of four teenagers with support from Our Children’s Trust, which as James Conca reports in Forbes, “seeks the legal right of our youth to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate in the future.” It is similar to rulings by federal and state courts in Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.
In this case, the court wasn’t ruling on the legitimacy of claims of dangerous manmade global warming. Rather, it was ruling on law. Massachusetts set itself up for such a ruling when it passed the GWSA and then its DEP failed—at least in the court’s judgment—properly to implement that law.
But the practical consequences of these rulings are tragic as they form precedent—not so much legal as social and (im)moral—around the nation and the world. As John Shanahan, President of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy USA put it in an email:
These relatively few “children,” far from all American children, show absolutely no concern for a billion or more real children in the rest of the world who will be forced by these few American “children” and the American legal system to go without the numerous benefits of fossil fuels for heating, cooking, transportation, energy for their businesses, electricity and all the by-products such as clothing, fabrics, sports equipment, toys: These very privileged few, who are worried about unsound science predictions of catastrophic man-made global warming, may be a new class of youth that the world has never seen before, at least for matters related to extremely complex science like carbon dioxide and Earth’s climate.
“It’s for the children’s sake.”
Yeah, sure. Little groups of teenagers understand the scientific case for dangerous manmade warming and the scientific and economic and ethical case for mitigating it so well they can file a lawsuit with full understanding. And which teenagers? Those luxuriating in the rich and comfortable West, or those suffering the ravages of poverty—including eye and (sometimes deadly, accounting for something in the neighborhood of 2 to 4 million premature deaths per year) respiratory diseases caused by indoor smoke from burning wood, dried dung, and other biomass as primary heating and cooking fuels in the absence of electricity, which will remain unaffordable because pampered rich kids add their voices to pampered rich environmentalists’ condemnation of the most abundant, affordable, and reliable source for electricity for the developing world: fossil fuels.
Kathleen Hartnett-White’s Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case explains the truly moral reasons to favor the use of fossil fuels—without which no society can rise and stay out of poverty. Few things demonstrate better than these legal proceedings the need for it.
This article was originally published on The Stewards Blog