Oregon TRUST plaintiff Kelsey Juliana talks with Bill Moyers about her lawsuit, spearheaded by Our Children's Trust, that could force the state of Oregon to take a more aggressive stance against the carbon emissions warming the earth and destroying the environment. She also talks about her walk across the United States as part of the Great March for Climate Action.
Learn more about one of Oregon's youth plaintiffs, Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana from Eugene, who is passionate about preserving this beautiful Earth. TRUST Oregon is the 8th film in the award-winning 10-part documentary series Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery.
Learn about local climate action in Eugene here.
February 25, 2016:
Youth filed their opening brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals. The youth are supported by 53 law professors from across the nation and a broad coalition of individuals and organizations from across the state, including the Mayor of Eugene Kitty Piercy, who filed amicus curiae briefs arguing for the Court of Appeals to overturn the lower court's adverse decision.
Read the opening brief here.
Read the Law Professors' amicus brief here.
Read the amicus brief filed by the following individuals and organizations here.
Mayor Kitty Piercy, Representative Peter Buckley, Councilor Peter Cornelison, Oregon Physicians For Social Responsibility, Oregon Environmental Council, Climate Solutions, Policy Interactive, Tom Bowerman, Earth Guardians 350 Club, 350 PDX, 350 Eugene, Rogue Climate, Columbia Gorge Climate Action Network, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, Hair On Fire, Douglas County Global Warming Coalition, Indow Windows, Eric Strid, Oregon Unitarian Universalist Voices For Justice, Interfaith Earthkeepers, Climate Justice Committee of The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, League of Women Voters of Oregon, Coalition of Communities of Color
July 7, 2015:
Oregon Youth File Critical Appeal In Their Climate Change Lawsuit
Eugene, Oregon – Today, two teenagers from Eugene appealed Judge Karsten Rasmussen’s adverse decision to their climate change lawsuit. In its decision, the court ruled that the state of Oregon has no responsibility to preserve Oregon’s iconic rivers and beaches, fish, wildlife, shorelands or the atmosphere for future generations. Without addressing any of the evidence presented in expert declarations supporting the youth, including statements from the state’s own scientists, the court questioned “whether the atmosphere is a ‘natural resource’ at all.” Last year, Judge Rasmussen was reversed by the Oregon Court of Appeals in the same case brought by the teens, and plaintiffs Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik are hopeful that the most recent decision will be overturned again.
May 11, 2015:
Court Questions Whether Atmosphere is a "Natural Resource"
Today, without considering any of the undisputed evidence by expert witnesses, a Lane Country Circuit Court Judge tarnished Oregon’s strong environmental record, holding in an unprecedented opinion that the state has no responsibility to preserve beaches, shorelands, islands, fish, wildlife, or the atmosphere for future generations.
April 8, 2015:
Hundreds of Oregonians from around the state came to Lane County Circuit Court to Support Youths' Landmark Climate Change Case
Yesterday, in front of a packed courtroom and national news media, Judge Karsten Rasmussen heard oral argument in a precedent setting climate change case, Chernaik v. Brown, brought by two young women from Eugene. More than 400 students and individuals from across the state flooded the courtroom and overflow room and took part in a silent vigil and theatrical tribunal outside the courtroom in support of Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik’s fight for their constitutional rights and meaningful state action on climate change.
“I’m very proud and grateful to my attorneys who represented us exceptionally well today,” said Juliana. “I’m disappointed and confused why my State is continuing to battle and resist our efforts to ensure our rights are beings upheld, by protecting vital resources needed for current and future generations. However, I remain optimistic and look forward to the judge’s decision.”
April 7, 2015:
Lane County Circuit Court Will Hear Oral Argument in Kelsey and Olivia's Climate Case
Come watch Judge Karsten Rasmussen at Lane County Circuit Court hear oral argument in the case Chernaik v. Brown, brought by two young plaintiffs from Eugene, Oregon.
Last summer, and in a nationally significant decision in their case, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled a circuit court must decide whether the atmosphere is a public trust resource that the state of Oregon, as a trustee, has a duty to protect. Kelsey and Olivia were initially told they could not bring the case by Judge Karsten Rasmussen in Lane Country Circuit Court. The circuit court had ruled that climate change should be left only to the legislative and executive branches. The Oregon Court of Appeals overturned that decision, and the Kelsey and Olivia’s case will be heard before Judge Rasmussen once again.
Kelsey and Olivia, filed the climate change lawsuit against Governor Kitzhaber (now Governor Kate Brown) and the state of Oregon for failing to protect essential natural resources, including the atmosphere, state waters, and coast lines, as required under the public trust doctrine.
We need to show the judges that we support Kelsey and Olivia, in their efforts to protect everyone’s rights to a safe and livable Oregon.
Help us pack the courtroom!
WHEN: April 7, 2015, 2:30 p.m. PST (please arrive at least 15 minutes early)
WHERE: 125 East 8th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97401
March 27, 2015:
March 13, 2015:
Plaintiffs filed their response brief in opposition to the State's motion for summary judgment with the Circuit Court, and the State filed its response brief in opposition to Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment.
January 9, 2015:
OREGON YOUTH’S CLIMATE CASE MOVES FORWARD
On April 7, 2015, Lane County Circuit Court Will Hear Arguments on Whether The State Of Oregon Has An Obligation To Protect Young People From The Impacts Of Climate Change
Today, two young plaintiffs from Eugene, Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik filed a motion for partial summary judgment in their climate change case, Chernaik v. Kitzhaber, to Lane County Circuit Court. Last summer, and in a nationally significant decision in their case, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled the court must decide whether the atmosphere is a public trust resource that the state of Oregon, as a trustee, has a duty to protect along with recognized public trust assets such as estuaries, rivers, and wildlife. Kelsey and Olivia’s attorneys will now argue before Judge Karsten Rasmussen in Lane Country Circuit Court that not only does the State have a sovereign duty to protect the public trust resources of Oregon like air and water from carbon pollution, but that it is violating its trustee obligation to present and future generations if it does not.
Read the expert declarations supporting the Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment from:
- Dr. James Hansen, former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Director of the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions program at Columbia University's Earth Institute
- Dr. Philip Mote, Director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and Professor at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University
- Dr. Burke Hales, Professor of Ocean Ecology and Biogeochemistry at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University
- Ernest Niemi, Economist and Founder of Natural Resource Economics Inc.
June 11, 2014:
Youth Win Reversal from Oregon Court of Appeals in Critical Climate Recovery Case
“Climate change is the biggest threat to our children,” said Julia Olson, Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel of Our Children’s Trust. “Our political branches of government around the country have failed to meaningfully protect our fundamental rights to a healthy atmosphere. The Oregon Court of Appeals has affirmed the very purpose of our justice system to seek judicial review when other branches of our government violate our basic rights. The decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals affirms that youth deserve a judicial determination on whether the atmosphere is a natural resource that warrants governmental protection as a public trust resource. We are confident that the Oregon trial court will make the right determinations to protect our most precious natural resource on which all others rely: our atmosphere.”
January 16, 2014:
The Oregon Court of Appeals heard argument in the Oregon atmospheric trust case before hundreds of people at the University of Oregon School of Law. Click here to watch the video recording of the hearing.
Read the press release here.
Also, check out University of Oregon School of Law's press advisory on the hearing.
January 14, 2014:
Law professors Mary Wood and Michael Blumm wrote a guest viewpoint in the Register Guard on the Oregon atmospheric trust lawsuit.
December 5, 2013:
Law professors Michael Blumm and Mary Wood wrote an opinion piece in the Oregonian about how the Oregon Attorney General's position in the the Oregon atmospheric trust case "completely undermines the state’s 150 year-old trust obligation owed to its citizens."
October 31, 2013:
The Oregon Court of Appeals has selected the Oregon atmospheric trust case to be argued at the University of Oregon School of Law on January 16, 2014. The lawsuit was filed against Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon for failing to protect essential natural resources, including the atmosphere, as required under the Public Trust Doctrine. Kelsey Juliana, Olivia Chernaik, and their mothers brought the case to compel the Oregon State government to create a viable climate recovery plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in order to protect Oregon’s natural resources.
WHEN: Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
WHERE: University of Oregon, 1515 Agate St, Eugene, OR 97403
June 3, 2013:
December 17, 2012:
Oregon Political Leaders, Businesses, Agricultural and Student Native Groups and Legal Scholars Support Youth In Climate Change Lawsuit
Two amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs were filed in support of Kelsey Juliana and
Olivia Chernaik’s appeal seeking to compel Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon to take action to protect Oregonians from climate change by complying with their fiduciary duties under the Public Trust Doctrine. The amicus curiae brief on behalf of Oregon’s political leaders, businesses, agricultural groups and student native groups details potentially devastating impacts the state faces due to greenhouse gas emissions and climate instability, from ocean acidification to a decrease in agricultural productivity and significant decreases in snowpack and water supply. The Western Environmental Law Center also filed a separate amicus curiae brief on behalf of twenty-two top legal scholars from around the country urging the court to apply the Public Trust Doctrine to the atmosphere and allow the case to proceed.
Read the press release here.
December 10, 2012:
Attorneys for youth plaintiffs file their opening brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals.
October 9, 2012:
TRUST Oregon Film Released as Oregon's Court of Appeals Decides to Hear the Case
The lawsuit was filed against Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon for failing to protect
essential natural resources, including the atmosphere, as required under the Public Trust Doctrine. Kelsey Juliana, Olivia Chernaik, and their mothers brought the case to compel the Oregon State government to create a viable climate recovery plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in order to protect Oregon’s natural resources. “I hope the Court of Appeals understands the need to protect the atmosphere to ensure a livable planet for mine and future generations,” said 16-year-old Kelsey Juliana.
Today Kelsey’s story documenting her concerns over Oregon’s changing climate is being
released in TRUST Oregon, a mini-documentary film. Her film is the eighth film in the ten-part, award-winning documentary series Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery featuring the voices of daring youth from across the country who are pursuing lawsuits and asking the ruling generation to hear their climate change concerns. TRUST Oregon will be part of the Climate Reality Project’s 24-hours of Reality on November 14 and has already been prescreened at the Women’s Congress for Future Generations in Moab, Utah.
August 2, 2012:
Two Oregon youth and their mothers, represented by the Crag Law Center, announced their decision to appeal a ruling dismissing their climate change lawsuit against Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon for failing to protect essential natural resources, including the atmosphere, as required under the Public Trust Doctrine. At the same time, they are asking the Court of Appeals to send the case straight on to the Oregon Supreme Court through a rare certification process.
April 5, 2012:
The trial court granted the State’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs will appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
January 23, 2012:
Hearing for State's Motion to Dismiss, 10.30 am Judge Karsten Rassmussen, Lane County Courthouse in Eugene Oregon.
Check out the press release here.
May 4, 2011:
Complaint was filed on behalf of Oregon plaintiffs by OCT partner Attorneys from the Crag Law Center, Chris Winters and Tanya Sanerib, and Oregon Attorney Liam Sherlock against the Oregon Governor and the State of Oregon.
Climate Change Impacts in Oregon
The following is an excerpt from the complaint filed.
The Oregon legislature established the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI) in 2007 to foster climate change research. The OCCRI concluded in 2010 that "[t]he human race is profoundly altering the composition of Earth's atmosphere, chiefly by burning fossil fuels, and there is strong evidence that these changes are responsible for much of the global increase in temperature since the mid 20th century.
The impacts in Oregon of human-caused climate change are predicted to be severe if carbon dioxide emissions are not curtailed in the near term. The OCCRI, in its most recent Climate Assessment Report, predicted that increases in average annual temperatures of 0.2- 1 degree F per decade would likely cause a wide range of adverse impacts that threaten Oregon's economy and environmental, including inter alia:
a. A reduction of Cascade snow packs by 50% by mid-century along with reduced summer precipitation will result in significant decreases in summer stream flows and water supply;
b. Impacts to Oregon's $1.6 billion per year agricultural industry, including drought, disease and limitations on the availability, quantity and costs of irrigation water as well as the displacement of current agricultural zones resulting, for instance, in the Willamette Valley no longer being viable for growing pinot noir wine grapes;
c. Increasing sea levels of at least 2-4 feet and greater storm intensity will result in severe coastal erosion, flooding, loss of beach areas and elevation, loss of coastal wetlands, and inundation of coastal infrastructure;
d. Changes to the marine environment including ocean temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen levels and acidity, which can inhibit the formation of calcium carbonate shell and skeletons for a wide range of marine organisms like oysters and plankton;
e. Increase wildlife in both western and eastern Oregon, and an increase in pests and diseases affecting Oregon forest species.
Climate change also poses risks to the health of all Oregonians. According to the OCCRI, "extreme weather (such as floods, droughts, severe storms, heat waves and fires) can directly affect human health as well as cause serious environmental and economic impacts." Among these impacts are the disruption of natural systems, which gives "rise to the spread or emergence of vector-, water-, and food-borne diseases in areas where they either have not existed or where their presence may have been limited." Other impacts include "increase[d] cases of allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions among susceptible populations" due to "[a]ir pollution and increases in pollen count" and the exacerbation of "lung health problems" due to "exposure to smoke from wild land forest fires, as well as from the projected increases in air pollution levels in our region."
Climate change will also "impost substantial costs to Oregonians." One example is the coasts associated with fighting wild fires. In 2009, Oregon's Climate Leadership Initiative concluded that "there could be 50% more wildfire acreage by 202 and 100% more wild fire acreage by 2040 in Oregon" and that "[u]sing linear projects based on business-as-usual approach...firefighting costs in Oregon could increase to $97 million in 2020, $200 million in 2040, and $444 million in 2080." Such costs as these "may be substantially reduced if global GHG emissions and thus climate changes (precipitation and temperature variability) are lessened through GHG mitigation policies and adaptation.
In 2007, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 3543, which set the following goals for Oregon: by 2010, arrest and begin to reduce Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions; by 2020, reduce greenhouse gas levels to 10% below 1990 levels; and by 2050 reduce greenhouse gas levels that are at least 75% below 1990 levels. The goals set by Oregon Legislature in 2007 are inadequate to mee the State's greenhouse gas reductions that will be required in roder to protect Oregon's trust assets and attain carbon dioxide concentrations of 350 ppm.
According to Oregon Global Warming Commission, Oregon's per capita emissions in 2005 were 10 thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) or total gross greenhouse gas emissions of 69,591,000,000 metric tons. Though lower than the national average, these per capita emissions are "nearly double the European Community Average."
According to the OCCRI, "[t]he sources of Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions can be broadly listed as energy [including transportation], agricultural, industrial process and waste management."
Oregon has the ability to curtail the greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and take the steps necessary to protect the public trust assets of the State from the adverse impacts of climate change. In 2004, the Governor's Advisory Group on Global Warming developed a detailed plan to reduce Oregon's emissions at least 75% below 1990 levels by 2050. The plan called for investment in energy, land use, and materials efficiency, replacing greenhouse gas-emitting energy technologies with cleaner technologies; and increase biological sequestration (or carbon capture and storage). Although Oregon's targets are inadequate to achieve the necessary reductions mandated by the best available science, the State has already developed a detailed implementation plant that includes a majority of the necessary greenhouse gas reductions.
Despite having a concrete greenhouse gas reduction and mitigation plan in places, Oregon is falling significantly behind the targets set by that plan. In 2008 and again in 2009, the Oregon Global Warming Commission found that Oregon is failing in its efforts to meet the 2020 and 2050 goals set by the legislature, which even in themselves would fail to achieve the necessary greenhouse gas reductions according to the best available science. As the Global Warming Commission found in 2009, "the state will likely fall well short of meeting its 2020 emission reduction goal, an, by extrapolation, clearly is not on track to meet its 2050 goal."
A zero-carbon energy system is still possible within the next thirty to fifty years. Actual physical emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels can be eliminated with technologies that are now available or reasonably foreseeable and at reasonable cost. The phase-out of fossil fuels by about 2050 is possible by implementing the following: 1) a cap on fossil fuel use that declines to zero by 2050 (or gradually rising carbon tax); 2) increasingly stringent efficiency standards for buildings, appliances, and motor vehicles; 3) elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear energy and biofuels from food crops; 4) investment in a vigorous and diverse research, development and demonstration program that includes smart grid and storage technologies and electrification of transportation; 5) banning new coal-fired power plants and closing existing plants; 6) carbon-free state, local and federal governments; and 7) adoption of energy standards that gradually shift Oregon over to renewable energy sources.