Trump Tried to Stop These Teens Suing Over Climate Change. It Didn't Work.
“The courts have the ability to make the other branches do their jobs when they are failing.”
The kids suing the federal government over climate change will get their day in court after all.
The administration of US President Donald Trump tried to get the case thrown out because it would allegedly be too burdensome to resolve.
But a federal appeals court in San Francisco unanimously voted 3-0 to reject this claim on July 20, arguing that the case should be decided in a court, according to Reuters.
The trial date is set for Oct. 29 in the 9th US District Court for the District of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, and it could set in motion a radical reshaping of the country’s environmental laws, forcing stringent regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and mandating significant investments in renewable energy and other climate-saving measures.
The lawsuit has gained notoriety in recent years because of the eloquence of the 21 young plaintiffs, who range in age between 11 and 22. Some of the youth call themselves Earth Guardians, an organization that is also a plaintiff on the case.
The youth advocates say that climate change is threatening their right to life, liberty, and property, and therefore the government must act.
Last year, Global Citizen spoke with one of the plaintiffs, Tia Hatton, who explained the rationale for bringing climate change advocacy to the courts.
“The courts, the third branch of government, have the ability to make the other branches do their jobs when they are failing,” she said. “There has been decades of research done by the government into the ‘apocalyptic’ effects of climate change, yet little to no action by our government. The issue is riddled with special interests, and the courts are largely away from this political show we have in the United States.”
This lawsuit, led by the legal nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, is reflective of the climate activism of the world’s youth.
Around the world, lawsuits by young people are seeking to hold governments accountable for failing to protect the environment.
On July 21, teenagers across the country took to the streets to demand strong climate action.
“Climate change is the greatest threat of the twenty-first century. Obviously,” a recent high school graduate named Ilana Cohen told The New Yorker. “We have the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world. The way we live our lives is affecting people everywhere.”
In June, hundreds of youth activists gathered in New Orleans to learn how to be champions of marine life.
And the push for environmental lifestyle changes like reducing plastic pollution and cutting down on meat consumption is often driven by young people.
The lawsuit in Oregon has the chance to bring about immediate structural changes, but it seems like emerging generations of voters are bound to ensure sustainability is a core part of the future.