Eighteen-year-old Nelson Kanuk’s yard is disappearing. Eight feet last spring. Five feet last summer. His house sits on the banks of a river, and once permafrost kept his yard in place. But he lives in Alaska, and so that permafrost is thawing. In a couple of years his house could go with it.

Now, with the help of Oregon’s Our Children’s Trust, Kanuk is suing the state for not doing more to stop climate change. The argument is that Alaska does plenty to regulate other natural resources and pollution — why not carbon pollution?

Here’s what the state’s lawyers have to say about that, according to NPR:

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Seth Beausang, a lawyer for the state of Alaska, says he understands part of the argument. “But the state has almost no control over the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because that is determined by global emissions of greenhouse gases,” he says.

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Beausang says the issue of whether the state should regulate the atmosphere doesn’t belong in the courts at all.

“We say it is more consistent with democratic principles for Alaska’s elected representatives to be making policy in this area. We think the Legislature and the governor should be making policy, not a single superior court judge,” Beausang says.

We don’t want to wish harm on anyone, but maybe if the legislature’s and governor’s houses were in danger of disappearing into the river they’d act a little faster. Since they aren’t, it’s up to clear-eyed people like Kanuk to remind them that climate change is hurting people — not in the future, but right now.

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