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American Kids Win the Right to Sue the US Government Over Climate Change

Nov 15, 2016 04:10 AM EST
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A group of 21 youths aged around nine to 20 years old has just won the right to sue the US Government over climate change incompetence after an Oregon federal judge ruled that it can proceed to court.
(Photo : Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

A group of 21 youths aged between nine and 20 years old have just won the right to sue the US Government over climate change incompetence after an Oregon federal judge ruled that it can proceed to court.

According to a report from Motherboard, US District Judge Ann Aiken from Eugene, Oregon allowed the group of young citizens to charge incumbent US President Barack Obama, a number of federal agencies and the fossil fuel industry. The group is suing for the violation of their constitutional rights by their government's affirmative actions which they allege have caused climate change.

“Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law, and the world has suffered for it,” said Judge Aiken on the released court document.

"This is no ordinary lawsuit. Plaintiffs challenge the policies, acts, and omissions of the President of the United States, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Transportation ("DOT"), the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA")," wrote the court.

Dr. James Hansen, the renowned climate scientist, is both a co-plaintiff in the case, as guardian for his granddaughter Sophie and future generations, but also one of the plaintiffs's experts. The Oregon-based nonprofit, Our Children's Trust, spearheaded the case.

Treehugger notes that the lawsuit was filed in September 2015 and underwent a grueling court process, with various government organizations trying to dismiss the case, some even questioning the capability of the children defending their rights like adults.

"This action is of a different order than the typical environmental case. It alleges that defendants’ actions and inactions—whether or not they violate any specific statutory duty—have so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty. [..] Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law, and the world has suffered for it," the ruling stated.

Julia Olson, the chief legal counsel of the group, said that the case and the recent ruling is significant, especially with the recent political conditions in the U.S.

"We have a President-elect who is an obvious climate denier and both political branches controlled by a party rampant with climate denialism. It makes the job of the court that much more important in our constitutional democracy," Olson said.

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