Youth Suing Government Over Climate Change Win Key Court Battle

Remember the kids suing the federal government about climate change? Their case is working its way slowly through the legal system and it’s on track for trial later this year, despite the best efforts of the Trump Administration. Their case could be groundbreaking for U.S. jurisprudence, and it might make a big difference for the climate, too.

The 21 plaintiffs are arguing that the government’s inaction on climate change is interfering with their lives, liberty and property. In addition, they say the government is not adequately caretaking public resources.

Youth have a lot at stake in the climate change fight, as their generation will bear the brunt of the problems older generations have created. They’re on the front lines of sea level rise, extreme weather, food shortages, and much more — so you can see why they’re anxious to push the government to take action.

The suit’s origins actually lie in 2015, when President Obama was named as a defendant. Youth organizers modified the suit to name Trump in early February, just in time for a slew of bad news for climate advocates, including appointing climate deniers to key offices and pulling out of the Paris Accord. It’s possible that some climate change data may not survive the administration, though there are attempts to preserve it.

As the lawsuit ground on, the Trump Administration and three fossil fuel companies acting as intervenors–the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers–pressed to have the suit dismissed. Their latest tactic was filing for what’s known as an interlocutory appeal, in which defendants effectively try to appeal before the course is even decided. Judge Ann Aiken denied it, saying no appeal was merited.

The Trump Administration is now doing something even more unusual, filing for what’s known as a writ of mandamus. The defendants are hoping to get the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to override Judge Aiken by asserting that the case exceeds the purview of the court and that she made such profound mistakes while weighing the matter that her decision should be vacated. Climate policy, they say, should be handled on an executive and legislative level, not a judicial one.

If this all sounds drier than your lawn at the end of summer, it’s serious business. The process of determining whether this case should go to court at all will influence similar cases, and if it does, the outcome could make a huge difference. Climate change lawsuits like this one are blooming all over the globe, but especially in the U.S. Similar suits on the state level have been successful.

Taking to the courts is also one way to take action when the federal government is sluggish on climate change, or actively making it more difficult to combat these issues. Just days after the administration put forward another attempt at weaseling out of the suit, President Trump was crowing on Twitter about a newly-opened coal mine, a reminder that his administration is working hard to actively erase the gains of the last eight years.

Photo credit: Laurie Shaull

47 comments

Marie W
Marie W16 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Carl R
Carl R5 months ago

Thanks!!!

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Lorraine A
Lorraine Andersen5 months ago

Way to go!! Glad to see it happen.

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Freya H
Freya H5 months ago

Never underestimate the power of youth - especially when they are p*ssed off!

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Jetana A
Jetana A5 months ago

Best wishes to these amazing youth!

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Vanessa Merifield
Vanessa Merifield5 months ago

All respect to them

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M s
M s5 months ago

the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers have loads of cash and bribing capability This is disgusting .These associations are destroying our country We want green energy not drilling fracking or mining We must make our voices heard not with violence but with removing legislators from congress and state who are in bed with oil/gas industry

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE5 months ago

Only in America

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heather g
heather g5 months ago

It is important that youth have their say on Climate Change - they inherit Trump's mistakes.

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