The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sanjali De Silva,

UCS Climate Litigation Scientist on Human Right to Stable Climate in Upcoming Court Cases

The European Court of Human Rights will hear a case tomorrow brought forward by six young people from Portugal arguing that more than 30 European countries have a legal duty to act urgently on the climate crisis. The historic case comes after a judge in Montana ruled that youth in the state have a right to a stable climate and the highest court in Hawai’i ruled similarly in March.

In a new blogpost, Dr. Delta Merner, a lead scientist at the Science Hub for Climate Litigation at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), breaks down what the right to a stable climate means, how it has been considered under the law in various jurisdictions, and why decisive action by leaders is urgently needed to mitigate climate change.

“The right to a stable climate is intricately linked to our well-being, safety, and the prosperity of future generations,” Dr. Merner writes. “A stable climate affords us a predictable environment where people can plan for the future with confidence, such as for agriculture, housing, or economic stability."

Dr. Merner points out the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to contend there is “no [federal] constitutional right to a stable climate.” Meanwhile, she notes, some countries including Ecuador and Norway have the right to a healthy environment written into their constitutions and laws.

As the human right to a healthy environment is challenged in front of courts around the world, Dr. Merner argues scientists, policymakers, and global citizens alike have an ethical responsibility to maintain a stable climate for current and future generations and the broader ecosystem.

“To honor the legal, ethical, and moral obligations we hold, we must act decisively to mitigate climate change, transform our energy and economic systems for a sustainable future, and ensure that the right to a stable climate is upheld for all,” she writes.

Dr. Merner is available for comment on the Portuguese youth case, climate and source attribution science, international climate negotiations, and other topics related to climate litigation and fossil fuel industry accountability.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.