Kids File Lawsuit Against US Government For Climate Change Inaction

The phrase “the children are our future” gets tossed around a lot. It’s not only a Whitney Houston lyric, it’s also an ever-popular slogan used to further political agendas of all kinds.

However, if the children truly are our future (and they quite literally are), why aren’t lawmakers doing more to ensure them a bright one, in terms of the health of our planet?

Currently, a group of children and adolescents is taking action against ruling bodies to protect their own future, by filing a lawsuit against the the US government for negligence and inaction in the face of climate change.

What’s more, despite opposition from fossil fuel industry leaders, a federal judge has allowed the lawsuit to go forward.

The lawsuit is organized by the nonprofit organization Our Children’s Trust and includes 21 young plaintiffs between the ages of eight and 19, as well as Dr. James Hansen, a leading climate scientist. As for the accusation, the plaintiffs maintain that the government is “violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging, and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels.”   

The original case was filed in Oregon, the home state of Our Children’s Trust. The US government tried to dismiss this lawsuit; however, Federal District Court Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin recently ruled against the dismissal, allowing the case to go forward. 

A press release by Our Children’s Trust states: “On April 8, 2016, US Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Eugene, OR, decided in favor of 21 young Plaintiffs, and Dr. James Hansen on behalf of future generations, in their landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The Court’s ruling is a major victory for the 21 youth Plaintiffs, ages 8-19, from across the U.S. in what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein call the ‘most important lawsuit on the planet right now.'”

According to Judge Coffin, this case is “unprecedented” and ruled that it should go forward because “the debate about climate change and its impact has been before various political bodies for some time now.” 

Judge Coffin also wrote: “If the allegations in the complaint are to be believed, the failure to regulate the emissions has resulted in a danger of constitutional proportions to the public health.”

Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust and counsel for the plaintiffs, stated: “The science is clear that if we do not obtain the relief we seek in this case, our climate system will be irreversibly and catastrophically damaged. Now these young plaintiffs have the right to prove that the government’s role in harming them has been knowing and deliberate for more than 50 years.”

The young plaintiffs involved in the case are, of course, highly encouraged by Judge Coffin’s ruling. Kelsey Juliana, from Eugene, Oregon, explained: “This decision marks a tipping point on the scales of justice. Youth voices are uniting around the world to demand that government uphold our constitutional rights and protect the planet for our and future generations’ survivability. This will be the trial of the century that will determine if we have a right to a livable future, or if corporate power will continue to deny our rights for the sake of their own wealth.” 

Aptly stated. We hope that this case goes forward and draws the attention that it deserves. The plaintiffs acknowledge that the case may be in for a difficult run. Judge Coffin is retiring this year, and the case will be subsequently reviewed by Judge Ann Aiken.

Also, although this case was filed in Oregon, five other states have similar pending legislature. 

Hurray for these brave young people! The nation will be watching with bated breath to see how this case unfolds.

—Tanya Rakhmilevich

Tanya is a writer at The Alternative Daily with a passion for meditation, music, poetry, and overall creative and active living. She has a special interest in exploring traditional Eastern remedies and superfoods from around the globe, and enjoys spending time immersed in nature.


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