A brief is a document that answers a legal question posed before the court. An amicus brief is a legal document filed in appellate court by non-litigants. These non-litigants, even though not involved have a strong interest in the subject matter of the case. The brief is intended to provide addition information to the court for consideration.

Do children have standing in a lawsuit against the government in climate change?

Climate change is a controversial topic with opponents on both side of the fence, those who have not joined in on what some consider the next movement claim that the changes that our Earth is seeing are “natural”. However science has proven that humans and their use of fossil fuels are the main contributor. Legal standing is defined as one's position or status as it relates to parameters of the case. In the case of climate change, the first question before the court is whether or not this group of American children is qualified or has the position to sue the American Government. The second question that the court has to answer is whether or not climate change is affecting or will affect these children (and presumable other children). Your Honor, what needs to be considered here is injury-in fact. After all, the plaintiff has standing due to the simple fact that injury is present to the children as a result of climate change.

If the actions of the United States Government perpetuate the children involved in this suit, and those that are not, will see an extreme threat posed to the special interest they hold to the state of the earth. In Sierra Club v. Morton 405 U.S. 727 (1972) Sierra Club files a law suit against a Disney park which would have utilized 80 acres of the Sequoia National Forrest valley floor, constructed a 20 mile highway and ran high-voltage power lines through the area. Sierra Club was ruled to not have standing in the case of Sequoia National Forrest due to the fact that they did not prove that their members would be affected. Even though Sierra Club did not have standing, this case can be easily applied to the same issues in questions here. Injury is the reason why Sierra Club did not have standing with the interests of Sequoia National Park, the children suing the National Government do however have standing because they will be injured.
We do not question that the type of harm may amount to an ‘injury in fact’ sufficient to lay the basis for standing under §10 of the APA. Aesthetic and environmental well-being, like economic well-being, are important ingredients of the quality of life in our society, and the fact that particular environmental interests are shared by the many rather that the few does not make them less deserving of legal protection through the judicial process.

The results of climate change, and the actions by the United States Government to which contribute to such changes in the climate, have affects and thus, those affected according to Sierra Club v. Morton deserve protection. The affects of climate change will significantly alter and harm the lives of these children and future generations, thus inflicting harm on the special interests that these children have with the earth. The special interests are a certain quality of life that their parents were granted.

The children in this suit as well as those who are not involved will see the affects of climate change as an imminent threat. In Massachusetts v. EPA 549 U.S. 497 (2007) the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency under the parameters of the Clean Air Act have to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The state of Massachusetts has standing in this case because the potential injuries from global warming is concrete and is particularized. Based on the ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA there is a responsibility on the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses, which has been proven to be the main contributor of climate change. What the children in this case are trying to say here is that the United States Government has been creating policies that encourage and foster the environment (politically and economically) for fossil fuels and thus climate change. The Paris Agreement in 2015 determined that a two-degree increase in global temperature is guaranteed, however more realistically the world is looking at a four-degree increase in temperature. Mark Lynas the author of 6 Degrees, Our Future on a Hotter Planet details the changes in the world as a result of this temperature increase; in his pages the world is drastically different. There is a chance that you your Honor will not see these changes as they are decades away, however this generation and future generations will see these changes and will have to live and adapt to what we caused and our Government caused. Thus climate change is an imminent threat to this generation.

Opponents of these children having standing in climate change would use Sierra Club v. Morton to show that while standing requires injury the injury in this case can not be proven until it has happened. There is no doubt that the results of climate change will affect this generation, however the date in which it will happen is fuzzy. The Paris Agreement was proof of this, scientists agree that at least a two-degree increase in global temperature is bound to happen but the date could be as far a three decades from now. The simple fact that the date is unknown questions whether or not this generation will have injury.

The main question here your Honor is standing and whether or not the predicted injury is enough for these children to file suit against the United States Government. There is no doubt that future generations will feel the affects of climate change and will have to adjust their lives accordingly, but if the United States Government does not take responsibility for its actions then the future that these children see will be even worse than predicted. I compel you your Honor to take hold these children’s future in consideration when evaluating their standing.

Written by Kaitlin Braunschweig