Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Ylan Nguyen


This Note offers a comprehensive look at the constitutional rights of future generations with respect to climate change. On August 12, 2015, Our Children's Trust filed a lawsuit against the federal government asserting that the government has failed to protect present and future generations from a human caused climate catastrophe. Inspired by Our Children's Trust's lawsuit, this Note seeks to establish that future generations are entitled to constitutional protection from climate change.

This Note consists of five sections aimed at showing that future generations are entitled constitutional protection from climate change and seeks to establish that the federal government has a duty to protect future generations by combating the effects of climate change. Part I argues that present generations owe a moral duty to future generations to combat the effects of climate change, thereby creating a constitutional duty owed to future generations. Part II explores atmospheric trust litigation and the Public Trust Doctrine and establishes the two theories as the most viable option for future generations to hold the federal government responsible. Part III considers standing for future generations (for children currently alive and for unborn children via future parents). Part IV discusses what constitutional rights future generations have with respect to climate change by (1) establishing that the right to a healthy environment is a fundamental right under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and, thus, (2) warranting protection under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Part V discusses the possible remedies future generations can pursue against the federal government.