Young Alaskans lawsuit on climate heard in court

Alaska Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller heard oral arguments on April 30 on the state’s motion to dismiss a climate lawsuit brought by 16 Alaskan youths, and will issue a decision later on whether the case may go to trial.

The plaintiffs, represented by the non-profit Our Children’s Trust, allege that the state is violating their constitutional rights by contributing to climate change and putting fossil fuel production above their safety.

Their lawsuit, Sinnok v. Alaska, urges the court to order the defendants to prepare a plan to reduce Alaska’s emissions in line with a science-based prescription to stabilize the climate system. Esau Sinnok, 20, of Shishmaref, is one of the plaintiffs.

Assistant state attorney general Seth Beausang argued that creating a climate policy is the responsibility of the governor and Legislature rather than the court.

“Alaska is not destroying the environment,” he told the court. “Alaska is not causing climate change.”

Andrew Well, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and a staff attorney at Our Children’s Trust, disagreed. “Alaska is a major contributor to climate change,” he said. “According to the state’s records, Alaska’s emissions are comparable to states with populations 3.5-7 times larger than Alaska’s. And these figures don’t account for the substantial volume of fossil fuels extracted in Alaska and exported out of state.

“Alaska’s constitution protects these young plaintiffs from their own government contributions to the profound dangers they face,” he said.

Watch the plaintiffs’ news conference online at