Climate kids take on the feds

We need these children and everyone else to stand up and protect our environment. Click here to read the full article or read an excerpt below.


Nearly two dozen kids — ages 8½ to 19 — appeared in federal court here on Wednesday morning. They wore nose rings and braces. Suits too big in the shoulders. Some doodled, others took copious notes. The backs of some heads barely peeked above the courtroom’s wooden benches. But these plaintiffs, however young and small, united behind a massive cause that should inspire any of us old folk: They’re suing the U.S. government — and President Barack Obama — for failing to act rapidly to stop climate change.

It’s the future suing the present.
The climate kids versus the feds.
“We sat in this courtroom today, and we have filed this lawsuit, because the leaders we have elected to take care of our planet, and to take care of our country for our generation and those to follow, are failing to do their job,” said Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh, a 15-year-old from Colorado who is one of the 21 young plaintiffs. “My generation is going to be inheriting the crisis we see all around us today. We are standing up not only for the environment and the Earth and the atmosphere but for the rights we have to live in a healthy, just and sustainable world.”
“We are the generation that gets to rewrite history,” he added, speaking to a crowd of more than 100 outside the courthouse. “The pen is in our hands, and we are rewriting history today.”
The climate-kids suit, which got a pretrial hearing on Wednesday before Judge Thomas Coffin, is part of a years-long campaign by a group called Our Children’s Trust.
The organization, with the support of former NASA climate scientist James Hansen and others, asserts Congress and the President have done far too little to stem the climate crisis. So they’ve taken to courts, filing petitions and complaints on behalf of young people in all 50 states, saying governments are failing to protect them and future generations from the harms of global warming.
This is the second U.S. federal court case they’ve filed (the first failed), and they’re also working internationally. The government argued before Coffin on Wednesday that the suit should be dismissed. It’s unclear when he will reach a decision.

‘This case is about survival’

“At its core, this case is about survival and whether the federal defendants can continue to threaten it,” said Julia Olson, lead attorney for the kids.
That may sound like hyperbole, but it isn’t. Scientists and the U.S. government have known for decades that burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests moves CO2 from the ground into the atmosphere — and too much of it makes the Earth hotter and hotter. The consequences are stark, from rising seas that could swallow island nations to deadly heatwaves, mass extinctions in the natural world and the spread of diseases.
Lives and property are at risk, and since climate change only gets worse as we pump more pollution into the atmosphere, young people have far more at stake than older folks.
For future humans, the very habitability of the planet is in jeopardy.
The federal complaint in Oregon, which the government and fossil fuel industries have asked the judge to dismiss, says the constitutional rights of these young people — including the right to life, liberty and property — are being violated. Furthermore, the climate kids’ attorneys also say they’re being discriminated against as young people who have the most to lose as climate change gains steam over time but who have little or no voice in the political process.
“This is an intergenerational issue,” Hansen, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and current head of the climate science program at Columbia’s Earth Institute, told me. “It’s a case where our actions will affect our grandchildren and their children.”

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