Atmosphere as a ‘Public Trust’ Legal Action in the US

Hat tip to P2P for this article about legal route to force climate protection in the US.

Climate Activists Target States With Lawsuits; Atmosphere As a ‘Public Trust’

Wednesday, May 04, 2011 By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

Billings, Mont. (AP) – A group of attorneys using children and young adults as plaintiffs plans to file legal actions in every state and the District of Columbia on Wednesday in an effort to force government intervention on climate change.

The courtroom ploy is backed by high-profile activists looking for a legal soft spot to advance a cause that has stumbled in the face of stiff congressional opposition and a skeptical U.S. Supreme Court.

The goal is to have the atmosphere declared for the first time as a “public trust” deserving special protection. That’s a concept previously used to clean up polluted rivers and coastlines, although legal experts said they were uncertain it could be applied successfully to climate change.

Wednesday’s spate of lawsuits, led by an Oregon-based nonprofit called Our Children’s Trust, are based on “common law” theories, not statutes adopted by state or federal lawmakers. Documents in the cases were provided in advance to The Associated Press.

Conservative opponents warned the effort could overload the judicial system and paralyze the economy with over-regulation.

Attorneys involved in the lawsuits said a victory in even one or two cases would give environmentalists new leverage, leading to new regulations to rein in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are driving global temperatures higher.

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