Department or Program

Environmental Studies


In 2015, 21 youth plaintiffs sued the federal government in a lawsuit called Juliana vs. United States. The case has since gained enormous media traction on a global scale, as it has the potential to create a new fundamental right: the right to a stable climate system. This could have enormous implications, affecting policy within the United States and abroad. However, the Constitutional arguments brought forth by the Plaintiffs lack emphasis on the Plaintiff’s status as youth. This thesis explores whether or not the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a 1989 core human rights framework, could add value to the Juliana case. The CRC has been ratified by nearly every country in the world and is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. As of 2019, the only country that has not ratified the CRC is the United States. The CRC could be an invaluable tool for climate change and human rights litigation. Several branches of the United Nations, as well as numerous human rights scholars have written extensively on the links between the CRC and climate change. This paper argues that although the Juliana Plaintiffs will be unable to use the CRC as a legal argument due to sovereignty laws and U.S. resistance to ratification, they should still push for its ratification. The U.S. currently has no legal framework for specific children’s rights, and the CRC could therefore provide precedence for future climate change and human rights litigation. In addition to exploring the usefulness of the CRC to Juliana, this thesis asks a broader question: should children and future generations be classified as unique stakeholders in the United States, and therefore entitled to separate representation in the formulation of climate change policy and consideration of environmental justice? This paper argues that children should be seen as separate stakeholders, given their unique vulnerability to climate change. Additionally, it is inherently discriminatory for policy makers to perpetuate climate change, given their knowledge that the consequences of these actions will disproportionately affect younger generations.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Francis Eanes

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

2 jpg.


Available to Bates community via local IP address or Bates login.