Does anyone have legal rights to “the atmosphere” and thus a stable climate? Professor of Law Mary Wood argues that governments in the United States and abroad hold the atmosphere in trust for the general public and are thus accountable for reducing carbon pollution to protect the climate for current and future generations. Tracing the origin of the well-established public trust doctrine to Roman law, Professor Wood discusses with Associate Professor of Law Myanna Dellinger how this enduring principle of law has resulted in judges requiring governments to protect, for example, rivers, lakes and oceanfronts. Professor Wood explains how some NGOs have recently brought suit under the public trust doctrine for government-scale failures to mitigate climate change through legislative or regulatory action and explains why this is sound policy in the nick of time.
Atmospheric Trust Litigation
February 21, 2015