A Group of Kids Is Suing the Federal Government Over Climate Change

The kids are headed to Washington, and they’re demanding action on fossil fuel emissions.

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Nov 21 2015, 4:47pm

Image: Shutterstock

It's becoming more and more clear every day that governments, big business, politicians, scientists, and pretty much everyone else is not getting much done to fix climate change. But now, one group is trying to succeed where others have failed—and they're all just kids.

A lawsuit filed by 21 young Americans—ages eight to 19—is demanding "a science-based climate recovery plan" that includes sharp emissions cuts. Brought by the Oregon-based group Our Children's Trust, it is one of the first efforts by young people to seek climate action through legal means.

The case alleges that by promoting the use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, the Federal Government and President Barack Obama are violating the constitutional rights of young people. Specifically, the complaint reads:

The present dangerous CO2 levels and emissions, resulting in significant part from the affirmative aggregate acts of Defendants' in the areas of extraction, production, transportation, and consumption of fossil fuels, endanger Youth Plaintiffs' and Future Generations' lives, liberties, and property.

The suit argues that though the government has known about the dangers of climate change since the 1960s, it has done next to nothing to curb it, failing to implement a series of pledges meant to curb emissions in the 1990s.

As is the American way, big oil and gas companies have already moved to oppose the suit. Earlier this month, a group including ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Koch Industries filed a motion asking for permission to join the U.S. government opposing a lawsuit brought by children. The group called the suit "a direct threat to [their] businesses."

One of the kids, as they're being referred to, is the granddaughter of James Hansen, formerly head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a renowned climate scientists whose life work has turned towards climate change advocacy. Hansen has voiced his support for the case.

"It is the fundamental duty of our government to ensure that this is done in time to avert catastrophic sea level rise and other intolerable climate damage," he said in a release. "I am not surprised that fossil fuel corporations seek to derail this case, but the fundamental rights of my granddaughter and future generations to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness must prevail."

Despite challenges from one of the most powerful industries in the world, the kids are still pursuing the landmark suit.

"Seeing giant fossil fuel corporations inject themselves into this case, which is about our future, really demonstrates the problem we are trying to fix," said Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez, a youth plaintiff in the case from Colorado.

"The Federal government has been making decisions in the best interest of multinational corporations and their profits, but not in the best interest of my generation and those to come."