The Corner

Energy & Environment

The Guardian: Does Climate Change Threaten Unborn Children’s Rights?

(James Gourley/Getty Images)

Writing in The Guardian today, activist and documentarian Astra Taylor suggests that perhaps “climate breakdown is a violation of the rights of those yet to be born.” She notes that, especially among young people involved in climate-change activism, the movement’s rhetoric often features claims about how inattention to global warming will harm those not yet alive.

As Greta Thunberg put it in her speech at the United Nations last week: “The eyes of all future generations are upon you.”

Taylor’s column isn’t the first time The Guardian has inadvertently acknowledged the reality of fetal life in the context of climate change. On September 18, the paper published a front-page story entitled “Unborn babies exposed to toxic air pollution.”

In her piece today, Taylor notes that politicians have little incentive to consider future generations when they determine what political action they’ll take, if any, on what she calls the “climate crisis.” “Why should they sacrifice their careers on the altar of the unborn, who can’t vote?” she asks.

Perhaps most interesting, Taylor outlines the dimensions of Juliana v. United States, a lawsuit in which 21 plaintiffs claim that the federal government has violated the constitutional rights of their generation — as well as those of “future generations,” explicitly named as a plaintiff in the suit. “Should the children’s lawsuit be allowed to move forward,” Taylor says, “it will be the first time the federal government has faced allegations in court that its climate policies violate citizens’ constitutional rights.”

It seems unlikely that these children will find success with their suit. But if they were to get any further, they’d run into a predictable tension in our country’s jurisprudence: Can a court find that the government’s climate policies have violated the constitutional rights of “future generations” when, to legalize abortion, our courts already have explicitly denied that unborn human beings possess those rights at all?

Consider, too, that most climate activists are concerned with what they call an overpopulation crisis, suggesting that people ought to have fewer children to conserve environmental resources. Some even say that abortion might be a necessary means of curbing population growth: Asked about overpopulation and “climate catastrophe” at last month’s climate-change town hall, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders said the U.S. ought to provide funding for abortion and contraception “in poor countries.” His comment was hardly the first time someone has suggested such a policy.

Once again, we are faced with the incoherence of the modern progressive movement, which advocates both more stringent climate regulations for the sake of the children and the unlimited right to abortion throughout pregnancy, both consideration for the rights of future generations and a willingness to kill the unborn to enable a cleaner future.

We are meant to believe that political leaders have failed generations yet unborn, and that we ought to craft policy to protect unborn children from toxic pollutants — but that, if unwanted by their mothers, those very same unborn children can be disposed of like so much toxic waste. We are told that unborn children have the right to clean air and that future generations deserve to be born into a planet free of climate catastrophe — but that to establish such a planet, some members of that generation will need to be sacrificed.

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