Twenty-two plaintiffs, ages 8 to 19, let it be known that even the youngest shall be heard in regard to the continued use of fossil fuels that are affecting our climate and the impact this will have on future generations. According to a recent Forbes article, Judge Thomas Coffin of the United States Federal District in Eugene, Oregon, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by promoting the use of fossil fuels.
A press release from Our Children’s Trust shares that the lawsuit “…seeks relief from government action and inaction that allegedly results in carbon pollution of the atmosphere, climate destabilization, and ocean acidification.” Quoted in another recent article, Judge Coffin considers this case “unprecedented” and ruled on moving forward because “the debate about climate change and its impact has been before various political bodies for some time now.”
Julia Olson, counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust, stated in a press release: “Judge Coffin accepted the Complaint’s presentation of undisputed scientific evidence that the federal government has, and continues to, damage these young Plaintiff’s personal security and other fundamental rights.” Olson goes on to note that without the relief the lawsuit seeks, “our climate system will be irreversibly and catastrophically damaged.”
On April 29, a second victory was won with a surprise state ruling from the bench when King County (Seattle, Washington) Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill ordered the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology “to promulgate an emissions reduction rule by the end of 2016 and make recommendations to the state legislature on science-based greenhouse gas reductions in the 2017 legislative session.” A press release on the ruling also stated: In granting the youth a remedy, Judge Hill noted the extraordinary circumstances of the climate crisis, saying, “this is an urgent situation… these kids can’t wait.”
“Our children have a right to a safe, healthy and prosperous future,” said Tom Gilbert, Campaign Director for ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “That’s why it is imperative that we reduce our use of damaging fossil fuels and transition rapidly to clean and efficient energy.”
GlobalChange.gov recently released The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, in which they summarize that climate change “is a significant threat to the health of the American people.” The Assessment shares that climate change is increasing nationwide and that the risks to human health continue to grow.
Victoria Barrett, one of the teenage lawsuit plaintiffs quoted in the Forbes article, said she is worried for her generation: “The future of our generation is at stake… I want to do what I love and live a life full of opportunities. I want the generation that follows to have the same chance.”