Dead tree in drought landscape
Climate change case is about children’s rights under the law. Photo: ©Tony Neilso

Youths accuse US gov’t of ‘endangering their future’

Just for a moment there it looked like a group of young people in the United States might pull off a legal coup on climate change that would scare the daylights out of denial politicians everywhere.

And they still might.

But for now, the plaintiffs – 21 youths aged between 11 and 22, as well as climate scientist James Hansen – have had their attempt to sue the US Government over climate change blocked by the US Supreme Court.

The case was due to begin in a Eugene, Oregon federal courtroom on 29 October, but the Supreme Court has suspended proceedings.

Increased emissions

The plaintiffs are accusing the US Government of endangering their future by promoting policies that have increased emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other planet-warming gases.

Instead of monetary damages, the complainants want District Judge Ann Aiken to take the unprecedented step of ordering federal agencies to dramatically reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Government attorneys are not expected to challenge the scientific consensus that human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, cause global warming. But each side has recruited high-profile scientists and economists, including Nobel laureates, to bolster their argument.

Battle of experts

“It’s clearly going to be a battle of the experts,” says Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Centre for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, who is not involved in the case.

“This case is about already recognised fundamental rights and children’s rights of equal protection under the law,” one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Julia Olson says.

The government contends the case is improper for the courts and has repeatedly tried to get the lawsuit dismissed.

Although this month’s Supreme Court ruling is a setback for the young action group, the case is far from a dead duck – to coin a phrase.

Natural Images 2018

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©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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