School kids suing US government over climate change | US News


In the beautiful state of Oregon an almighty legal row with international implications is unfolding.

That’s because four years ago a group of 21 children and young people decided to sue the US government over climate change.

When the lawsuit was first lodged in a federal court in Eugene, no one thought it would get very far.

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Kelsey Juliana is the lead plaintiff


Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust
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A group of 21 children and young people decided to sue the US government over climate change. Pic: Robin Loznak / Our Children’s Trust

But against all the odds, both the Obama and Trump administrations have tried and failed to get it thrown out.

Now the case is at a critical juncture, with an appeals court due to make a decision about whether or not it can proceed to trial.

The lawsuit has become known as Juliana versus The United States, after Kelsey Juliana, the lead plaintiff.

She said: “When I first got involved in climate litigation I was 14 years old and I didn’t even know what a plaintiff was!”

But she finds herself as the face of a case that could decide whether or not there is a constitutional right to a safe and stable climate.

Ms Juliana said: “We want this right established because we as young people have been and are still feeling the effects of climate destabilisation in our daily lives, in our homes and in our prospects of a future and a stable reliable future.

“We want our government to act on the most pressing issue of our time, we do not want money.”

She says her generation feels let down by politicians.

“I feel extreme disappointment.

“Because growing up, you’re told that adults are supposed to protect children, adults are supposed to look out for children, adults are supposed to have your best interests at mind.

“They are supposed to create healthy systems and raise healthy children.







School kids are suing the US government over climate change.

“And the government has neglected children and all future generations to such a high degree that it is beyond anger and it is just extreme disappointment.”

On Jacob Lebel’s family farm in the hills outside Eugene, he is already seeing the effects of our warming planet.

He said: “What we can see now is insect outbreaks and trees dying in vast numbers – about three quarters of the forest – and we’re wondering, ‘What is this going to look like?’

“The whole idea of this case is that the United States government has known about climate change and what burning fossil fuel does to our planet, and it has known about the best science for nearly 60 years.

Jacob Lebel - climate change case in US - HTP rushes
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Jacob Lebel’s family farm is already seeing the effects of the warming planet

“And they’ve continued to support, subsidise and perpetuate a fossil fuel national energy system.

“This is a direct attack on the lives of the youngest and most vulnerable citizens of this country.”

If their case is successful and the court decides that the government has violated its citizens’ rights to a safe and stable climate, then it can insist that lawmakers come up with a science-backed policy to better tackle the climate crisis.

America is already one of the world’s biggest polluters but this would be quite a change for the Trump administration, which is pulling out of the Paris climate accord and is actively promoting the fossil fuel industry.

The Department of Justice has argued that the case is unconstitutional, and that a single court in Oregon should not be able to direct a nation’s climate and energy policy.

But Julia Olson, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, is hoping that Juliana versus The United States could change the course of American history.

Julia Olson - htp rushes
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Julia Olson is the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs

She said: “That’s the aim of this case, to get a decision like the decision that ended segregation in this country.

“We needed that Supreme Court decision at that time and we need the court to weigh in on this issue of climate destruction that our government is sanctioning.

“Young people can see clearly in ways that sometimes adults are blinded. They are closer to truth and fairness and justice and they have so much at stake.

“They are asking for more adults to stand with them and to lead with them and to use their abilities and their power to change the way we are powering our world.

“And they deserve that, and every adult who can should be standing with them.”



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