Alaska Supreme Court justices hear youths' climate change lawsuit
A group of young people from across Alaska took their arguments on climate change to the Alaska Supreme Court Wednesday.
Andrew Welle, an attorney representing the youths, argued the state is violating the plaintiff’s constitutional right to a safe and stable climate by its energy policy which encourages the development of fossil fuels.
“Alaska's government enacted a statute that says that it's their policy to promote fossil fuels,” he said. “In implementing that policy, they are making climate change worse and they are responsible for the impacts that are happening in Alaska and are befalling these young plaintiffs.”
A climate lawsuit filed by more than a dozen young Alaskans in 2017 was dismissed by a lower court. The plaintiffs are appealing that decision, asking the Alaska Supreme Court to allow the lawsuit to go forward.
Esau Sinnok, 21, is lead plaintiff in the case. The Shishmaref native said he’s seen his village erode into the sea. For him, climate change is personal.
“It’s more than just a hot topic issue to me because I see it every day,” he said.” It’s not just climate change. It’s my livelihood. It’s my future. It's my tradition. It’s my culture.”
But Alaska's Assistant Attorney General Anna Jay argued that climate change isn’t an issue for the courts to decide and suggested that it would be wrong for the justices to declare that a stable climate was a constitutional right.
The state would like to see the lawsuit dismissed.
The justices must now decide whether the lawsuit can head to trial. It’s a decision that has no timeline, but attorneys say is likely to take several months.
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