Last week, on Wednesday, Nov. 13th, guest speaker Philip Gregory came to the KHS Economos Lecture Hall to speak about the Juliana v. US government case. He is the lead attorney in this case about climate change and its effect on future generations. It was named after the Plaintiff that originated it, Kelsey Juliana, who was only 15 when she teamed up with the Our Children’s Trust organization to file a lawsuit. It has now come to include 20 more young plaintiffs. These youths originate from all across the country, range in age from 12-23, and come from numerous ethnic backgrounds, but are united in the fact that they believe climate change is an issue of utmost importance.
In his hour spent talking to the people sat in the lecture hall, Gregory mentioned multiple times in the past where climate change has been predicted by scientists, but ignored by the government. Many years before climate change had such a profound effect, small deviations were noticed by the more watchful, specifically in the carbon PPM (parts per million) of the atmosphere around us. For thousands of years prior, the CO2 level has hovered around 280 PPM, which is below the accepted safe level of 350. But in the last hundred years, it has skyrocketed to a concerning 400+. Since the 1950s, more presidents than not have passed laws that have made the global situation worse. Even today, as we are seeing major effects of this rise in CO2, little is being done by anyone in the government. This is what the Juliana plaintiffs and Philip Gregory want to fix. They are suing not for any amount of money – no one will get a penny from the government. They want to change the inactivity and get bills passed that follow their pathways to 350 PPM.
Juliana’s major complaint is that the government, in their reluctance to regulate their actions leading to more carbon emissions, has violated “the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.” The defendants, which include former President Obama, President Trump, The Department of Energy, the EPA and many more, don’t argue that climate change is not a real problem, but rather that there is nothing they can do about it. Their “constitutional climate lawsuit” was filed in 2015, but due to numerous setbacks and people trying to push back the court dates, Gregory estimates that it will be a full year until their next court date is even known. On March 1, 2019, a climate activist group called Zero Hour filed an amicus brief, representing the beliefs of over 30,000 young people from 145 different countries, in favor of the Juliana lawsuit going through. These 21 young plaintiffs represent the interests of future generations across the world, and they are taking action here in the US. Gregory ended the presentation telling us about his young granddaughter, and how he wants her to grow up knowing that he took action against the most pressing issue of this generation, that he didn’t stand idly by. His love for the wellbeing of the future was apparent, and the care and concern that all of the Juliana youths share is something that needs to get across to the rest of the population.