The Public Trust Doctrine says the government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival, according to Prof. Mary C. Wood, author of a book on youth environmental activism. The doctrine requires our government to protect and maintain survival resources for future generations. Relying on this long-standing legal principle, young plaintiffs have cases at the state and federal level.

At the federal level, five teenagers, and two non-profit organizations Kids vs. Global Warming and Wild Earth Guardians partnered with Our Children’s Trust to file a federal lawsuit. A petition for their case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in December, but the plaintiffs vow to advance their climate claims in lower federal courts until the federal government is ordered to take immediate action on human-made climate change.î

At the state level, there are cases pending in OR, NM, PA, MA, WA and CO. Courts in Alaska, TX, AZ, KS, MT and PA have issued developmental decisions on which the pending cases are in part based. Youth plaintiffs supported by Our Children’s Trust have filed administrative rule-making petitions in every state in the country.

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