Skip to main content
Our Children's Trust lawsuit plaintiffs from Washington state

Our “fighting chance” against climate change

Gus Speth

Gus Speth

Distinguished Next System Fellow more

Environment & Energy

Yes! magazine on February 22 published this interview by contributing editor Fran Korten about “the saddest story ever told”—the federal government’s decades-long failure to meet the challenge of climate change—and the more optimistic story about what some young people are doing to change the narrative.

The interview is centered on a lawsuit against the federal government filed by Our Children’s Trust. As Korten writes, “21 young people sued the U.S. government for promoting the fossil fuel industry even when it was aware of the dangers of climate change,” and by doing so “endangering their future well-being, thereby violating the government’s public trust responsibility and their constitutional rights.”

She goes on to write:

The youths … retained experts to contribute supporting reports for the suit, including from environmental lawyer and climate policy expert James Gustave Speth. He reviewed what each administration from Carter to Trump knew about climate change and alternative energy and what actions were taken. Speth concluded in his report, which was filed in 2018, that every administration “continued full-throttle support for the development and use of fossil fuels.” This pattern is “the greatest dereliction of civic responsibility in the history of the Republic,” he wrote.

The good news, however, is that progressive momentum for change is building. There is a long way to go, but the important thing is for people to redouble their efforts. Now that we’ve got a fighting chance, we really have to fight.

Read the full interview.

Gus Speth

Gus Speth

Distinguished Next System Fellow more

More related work

Default Image: Fire

Can transformative change come to America?

The good news is systemic change may happen more rapidly than once seemed possible. But how the US and the world address the climate crisis will be a powerful determinant of what is possible. read more
Windmills under a blue sky

A new era of public power: A vision for New York Power Authority in pursuit of climate justice

As both the owners and customers of the NYPA, New Yorkers have the opportunity to demand, build, and benefit from a more democratic and equitable energy system as the state aims to be greenhouse-gas-emission-free by 2040. read more
BRESCO protest

The nation’s first “fair development” zero waste plan 

In a south Baltimore neighborhood, a powerful, youth-led coalition helped spearhead the first Zero Waste Plan developed by and for U.S. grassroots communities that want to transition from an economy of extraction to one of reuse and regeneration. read more