Next month, a judge in Oregon will begin hearing a case brought against the United States government on behalf of 21 young people, supported by the non-profit organization Our Children's Trust, who allege that the authorities' active contributions to the climate crisis violate their constitutional rights. The government defendants have repeatedly tried — so far without success — to have the case thrown out or delayed, and the trial is currently scheduled to start on Oct. 29.

In principle, governments, not courts, are best placed to decide which policies will best solve environmental and social problems. In 1992, countries, including the U.S., China, India and all European states (and a total of 189 by 2006) accepted responsibility for addressing climate change.

Meeting at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, they agreed to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions "at a low enough level to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."