When someone from a small country becomes famous it brings a warm glow back home. For instance we note (being Canadian) that the passing of former Toronto Maple Leaf hockey great Börje Salming from ALS produced tributes that mentioned how proud Swedes were of his breakthrough into the National Hockey League. And maybe some Swedes also felt that, even if she was a dreary scold, Greta Thunberg was putting the place on the map for something other than saunas and do-it-yourself furniture. Until um she sued her own country for being climate hypocrites. As Edmund Burke observed long ago, birds of prey are not gregarious. But the Swedes rather brought this one on themselves, including by joining in the general process of adults scaring kids into neurosis over the supposed looming climate breakdown.
Naturally NBC cheers her on, including the somewhat odd aspect of staging a protest march as part of the lawsuit:
“Hundreds of activists, among them Greta Thunberg, marched through the Swedish capital to a court Friday to file a lawsuit against the Swedish state for what they say is insufficient climate action. More than 600 young people under the age of 26 signed the 87-page document that is the basis for the lawsuit which was filed in the Stockholm District Court.”
Also naturally, Thunberg and her children’s crusade are chewing on the hand that fed them:
“‘Sweden has never treated the climate crisis like a crisis,’ said Anton Foley, spokesman of the youth-led initiative Aurora, which prepared and filed the lawsuit. ‘Sweden is failing in its responsibility and breaking the law.’”
Boo Sweden. Deniers. Trumpists.
Finally naturally, NBC agrees that they should do so:
“The action comes as scientists warn that chances are slipping away to limit future warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times. At a recent U.N. climate conference in Egypt earlier this month, leaders tried to keep that goal alive but did not ratchet up calls for reducing carbon emissions.”
It is a curious aspect of the situation that these young people are part of the revolt of the elite, attacking the Establishment to the cheers of the Establishment. Governments, celebrities, journalists, corporations, everyone is marching in the streets demanding that whoever is blocking climate action somehow be dislodged so we can finally cool the planet back to the Maunder Minimum or whatever it is they want. And they want it now.
As Bloomberg observed of her class action suit with other persons of youth, “The lawsuit is part of an international wave of climate-related legal action, some of it targeting national governments.” And why not, since those same governments, the media and supposedly responsible adults generally have either pandered to or actively driven a sense that drastic climate action is needed pronto, and then failed to carry it out. And have also far too often encouraged the notion that democratic action via voting and legislatures is all fine and good for boring old person stuff, but when it comes to social justice you bypass all that rubbish and block a road or soil a painting or get some court to hector the fogeys.
Thus the High Council of the Netherlands, and these fancy names and rituals help make raw power grabs look like constitutional prudence, “ruled in 2019 that the government had a legal obligation to take action to mitigate global warming.” And here again we quibble that a court is part of “the government”, specifically the judicial branch. What really happened is that a part of the government that was not elected told a part that was elected to do something other than what it was elected to do.
Sometimes such things are desirable. The point of constitutions is to constrain both the making and implementation of laws, and regulations, in keeping with the people’s deeper sober views of how they wish to govern themselves. For instance guarantees of free speech are there to make sure that some wave of popular disdain for a particular view does not lead to the hasty abandonment of the idea that a fair intellectual fight will see truth defeat error. But this idea can quickly turn into the notion that the point of constitutions is to ensure that the enlightened views of Thomas Sowell’s “anointed” prevail over those of grubby commoners.
As Bloomberg adds, “The Swedish suit involves Thunberg, possibly the world’s best known climate activist, and more than 600 others who claim that Sweden’s climate policies violate its constitution as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.” But again, you can argue that Swedish politicians and indeed citizens did this one to themselves, because the suit is based, with regard to the Swedish constitution, on the passage in Article 2 saying “The public institutions shall promote sustainable development leading to a good environment for present and future generations.”
This bit was added to the Constitution in 2002 in violation of the principle that a Constitution ought to specify how citizens will govern themselves and what the state may not do to them, rather than incorporating policy goals in supra-legislative language. But they did it, and now it has come back to bite them.
Of course it’s one thing for a court to order politicians to do something, and quite another for them actually to do it. Their capacity for obfuscation and incompetence is a powerful force, and the fact that some judges said the Dutch government had to cut GHG emissions by at least 25% by the end of, um, 2020 instead of its formal target of 17% does not mean it did anything of the sort. As one jubilant account ended sadly:
“the court didn't specify which measures the government must take to meet the target, and the verdict immediately triggered discussions about whether a 25% reduction in 5 years is feasible and whether it might hurt the Dutch economy.”
Still, the sight of Greta Thunberg suing the Swedish government for being planet-wrecking right-wing greenwashing brutes cannot fail to bring amusement to the world. And perhaps a bit of regret to many Swedes who cheered for the face-eating leopard never thinking it would eat their face.