By Bailey Julian
Climate change has been a big topic of debate in the government for decades, coming to a head with the recent Trump administration. As for last week, government scientists released a report stating the need to change environmental practices or face even more severe consequences such as California Wildfires. The Trump administration dismissed the report, however.
In the face of such dismissal of the pressing issue, a group of 21 middle and high school students took it upon themselves to take action, speaking up about the increasing harm to the environment, leading as climate change. The 21 plaintiffs are joined by experts such as lawyer Julia Olsen and NASA climate scientist James Hansen.
Nathan Baring, a 17 year old living in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Levi Draheim, a 9 year old living in Cape Canaveral, Florida, have banded together to sue the federal government for failing to adequately protect the Earth from the effects of climate change for future generations. They argue that younger generations have a right to a stable environment and climate, which have been denied to them by poor environmental practices.
The young plaintiffs began their lawsuit with the Obama administration, which sought to dismiss the case. The Trump administration similarly attempted to dismiss or at least slow the case. In early October the Trump administration asked Judge Aiken to grant their request of having the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals review her order that agreed with the youths. Again this put the trial to a halt.
However, on November 2, the Supreme Court said the climate change lawsuit could proceed against the government. The Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s request to dismiss the case.
The children and teens, through their lawyer, argue that the federal government’s promotion of fossil fuel production and their indifference to the risks posed by greenhouse gases has resulted in a “dangerous destabilizing climate system,” according to National Geographic.
The lawsuit argues for many different beliefs such as the government’s violation of their fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. The lawsuit also argues that the government violated a legal concept of the public trust doctrine, a law that says the government is responsible for protecting public resources like land and water or in this case the climate system.
“In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best-schizophrenic, if not suicidal nature of U.S. climate and energy policy” Hansen said according to the New York Times.
The ongoing court case broke ground when U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken agreed with the students arguments, leading the case to trial later this year.
“I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society. Just as marriage is the foundation of the family, a stable climate system is quite literally the foundation of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress,” Aiken said in her opinion briefing from last fall.
Even if the review is given to the Trump administration, it will be difficult for them to reverse the government’s statements and acknowledgements about climate change. The new administration’s position on climate change has increasingly become clear.
“Carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to the global warming we see,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said, according to CNN.
The case is moving up the court ladder, making its way to the Supreme Court where it will be heard next year.