UC Law Environmental Journal


There is consensus in the scientific community that climate change is in fact occurring and is primarily driven by human activities. Despite this consensus, the executive branch under President Trump has engaged in scrapping environmental regulations and increasing fossil fuel consumption, while the legislative branch has refused to take any beneficial action. This leaves the judicial branch as the primary avenue for Americans seeking to force action on climate change.

This paper will focus on the judicial response toward climate change litigation. More specifically, it will analyze how some courts—and the litigants who bring their suits—are stepping outside of their traditional judicial bounds when addressing climate change suits. In some cases, courts are using their positions to bring publicity to certain issues or are allowing unusual complaints to move forward. Further, this paper argues that until the other branches take action to combat climate change, the judicial branch ought to continue to provide a place for debate and response to climate change, no matter how limited its response may be. When two branches of government systematically deny and obstruct such action, it is in the collective interest to allow and encourage the third branch to remain open to such claims.

When a case implicates hotly contested political issues, the judiciary must not shrink from its role as a coequal branch of government. – Judge Ann Aiken