This is a Petition signed by lawyers and others calling for immediate government action to protect the Earth’s climate from harm much greater than the substantial harm that the scientific community tells us has already been caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The signers hope that the message of this Petition will be adopted by local, state, and national bar associations in the United States and throughout the world, and that all other professions and vocations will take similar action as part of an international demand for protection of the global climate, the planet, and the people and other living things that inhabit it.
We, the signers, espouse the following:
• Global climate change, also known as global warming, is real and is caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels. There is no dispute on this among scientists who study climate change.
• The likelihood of serious harm to human society worldwide in the short, medium, and long-term is great, including severe disruption to human life and activities. For example, scientists predict that unless measures are taken to reduce now and soon eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, there will be a global increase in temperature of 4.7° to 8.6° Fahrenheit between now and the end of this century. Contrast that to global warming of 1.4° Fahrenheit since 1900, with most of that increase occurring since 1970.The effects of such further temperature change will threaten food production, freshwater supplies, coastal infrastructure, and the welfare of large sectors of the world’s population.
• One known way for governments to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to impose a carbon pricing policy, such as a carbon tax, fee and dividend, or cap and trade system. Numerous liberal and conservative economists have recognized that a carbon pricing policy would be feasible and effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and would have the beneficial side effect of spurring economic growth. Governments including the government of the United States must address this issue and pass effective measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the very near future, or it will be too late to take effective action.
• Protecting society from harm is the most fundamental purpose of law and government. Faced with clear evidence of impending harm, we as citizens and lawyers have a duty to speak out on the need for effective government action to protect humans now alive and those to be born. We have no right to knowingly continue to inflict severe damage to the planetary ecosystem that sustains all life. To the contrary, we have a duty to protect it.
• Lawyers have a special duty to speak out on important societal issues, especially regarding matters that may be effectively redressed through law. We call on lawyers to sign this Petition. We welcome the signature of all other people and organizations. We encourage everyone to discuss the Petition with their families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers and use every lawful means available to bring attention to this serious problem and call for action NOW to protect the climate for the good of all humans and other living things on earth.
1. Extensive support for these statements and those that follow can be found at the Learn section of this site.