The paper was developed, in part, as the scientific justification for Our Children's Trust lawsuit (Juliana et al. vs. United States) of which Hansen is a plaintiff, against the federal government. The lawsuit, launched by 21 youth plaintiffs in 2015, alleges that by not acting on climate change the federal government has failed to secure the public trust. It's a duty that they argue was codified into law in the 1892 U.S. Supreme Court case Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois. The ruling affirmed the state's duty to prevent substantial impairment of a trust consisting of, "lands, waters, materials, and privileges."