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Trump administration unable to stop lawsuit brought by teens

They want to do something about climate change, and they're winning in court.

by Alex Lubben
Mar 8 2018, 12:29am

It’s a teen’s world, and all of us, even the Trump administration, are just living in it.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school have been pushing lawmakers to pass meaningful gun reform for the last few weeks, confronting legislators like Marco Rubio — on primetime. And off-screen, another group of teens is taking the government to task on an issue crucial to them: Climate change. And the Trump administration, despite its best efforts, hasn’t been able to stop the case from moving forward.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in 2015, 21 young plaintiffs argue that the government’s actions to promote the interests of the fossil fuel industry impinge on the most fundamental of constitutional rights — life, liberty, and property — of their generation and of future generations. And on Wednesday, a judge ruled that the federal government’s request to dismiss the case is “entirely premature.”

“We need a constitutionally compliant energy system that doesn’t destroy these people's lives — and the court can order that,” Julia Olson, the lead attorney for the young plaintiffs and chief counsel of Our Children’s Trust, told VICE News.

Wednesday’s decision means the case is very likely going to trial in the District Court. The case, Olson says, will dredge up the federal government’s historic relationship to climate science.

“It’s going to be about the impacts of climate change on young people and the discrimination of children and youth with respect to their rights,” said Olson. “It’s going to be about how long the federal government has know that if it kept a fossil fuel energy system in place that it would destroy our environment.”

The case is a big deal, and it’s attracted a big name in climate advocacy: “future generations” are part of the suit, represented “through their Guardian Dr. James Hansen,” the legendary NASA scientist and climate activist. His granddaughter, Sophie, is one of the young people suing.

Still, Judge Sidney Thomas, who wrote the ruling, noted that the courts might not be able to fix all of climate change, but the courts would have to consider the facts of the case to figure out what could be remedied.

“We are mindful that some of the plaintiffs’ claims as currently pleaded are quite broad, and some of the remedies the plaintiffs seek may not be available as redress,” Thomas wrote in his decision Wednesday. “However, the district court needs to consider those issues further in the first instance.”

The Department of Justice didn’t immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.

Image via Getty