Feds Respond to Allegations in Historic Lawsuit: Fossil Fuel Emissions Put Humans on ‘Dangerous Path
On Jan. 13, the federal government filed its answer to youth plaintiffs’ complaint in Juliana v. United States. In their answer, the federal defendants make several admissions to their long-standing knowledge of climate change danger and to today’s knowledge on the severity of those impacts.
“The Department of Justice and the federal defendants have now admitted many of the central facts underpinning our youth plaintiffs’ constitutional claims against the United States,” said Julia Olson, counsel for plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust.
“This answer moves us even closer to proving our case at trial this year. One important and lasting legacy of the Obama Administration is its commitment to scientific research and disclosing the full dangers of climate change to the American people and the world. This answer, made in his final days in office, reflects the stark contrast between the truth of the climate dangers we face and the destructive lies being perpetuated by the incoming Trump Administration. At trial, truth will prevail.”
Pursuant to defendants’ answer, the following allegations were admitted:
That the use of fossil fuels is a major source of CO2 emissions, “placing our nation on an increasingly costly, insecure and environmentally dangerous path.”
“That for over fifty years some officials and persons employed by the federal government have been aware of a growing body of scientific research concerning the effects of fossil fuel emissions on atmospheric concentrations of CO2—including that increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2 could cause measurable long-lasting changes to the global climate, resulting in an array of severe deleterious effects to human beings, which will worsen over time.”
“That from 1850 to 2012, CO2 emissions from sources within the United States (including from land use) comprised more than 25 percent of cumulative global CO2 emissions.”
“Federal Defendants admit that they permit, authorize and subsidize fossil fuel extraction, development, consumption and exportation. Federal Defendants admit that fossil fuel extraction, development and consumption produce CO2 emissions and that past emissions of CO2 from such activities have increased the atmospheric concentration of CO2.”
That current CO2, methane and nitrous oxide levels are at “unprecedentedly high levels compared to the past 800,000 years of historical data and pose risks to human health and welfare.”
Current and projected concentrations of six well-mixed greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including CO2, threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”
“Federal Defendants admit that scientific evidence shows that elevated CO2 concentrations have caused ocean acidification and ocean warming” and “caused adverse effects to coral reefs and wildlife.”
“Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations will require deep reductions in CO2 emissions.”
“The United States has supported fossil fuel development through overseas public financing, primarily through the Export-Import Bank of the United States…” and that the Export-Import Bank “provided $14.8 billion in commitments for 78 transactions or projects in the petroleum sector, including … six in Russia/FSU … the Export-Import Bank of the United States also supported numerous coal and gas power plants.”
In some cases, the federal defendants even argued that the youth plaintiffs’ allegations were understating the evidence against them. For example, plaintiffs alleged the atmospheric CO2 concentration exceeded 400 ppm in 2013 for the first time in recorded history, but the federal defendants admitted it was “for the first time in millions of years.”