A group of young people suing the U.S. government over climate change can have their day in court, the Supreme Court ruled. The case was put on hold last month just before it was slated to go to trial in late October in a federal district court in Eugene, Oregon. The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case.
The landmark lawsuit was brought by 21 people ranging in age from 11 to 22 who say the federal government violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by failing to protect them against climate change. Specifically, the plaintiffs are asking the court to order the U.S. government to prepare a plan to lower the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide concentrations are rising due to the fossil fuels that people are burning for energy.
The U.S. Department of Justice argued that “there is no right to ‘a climate system capable of sustaining human life.’” But the Supreme Court found otherwise, allowing the case to move forward.
Some of the plaintiffs have alleged that they have already suffered as a result of climate change, including a 17-year-old who says her family was forced to leave their home on Arizona’s Navajo National Reservation because the natural springs they relied on were drying up allegedly as a result of climate change.
This isn’t the first climate control case to be brought against local or national governments or corporations. Most sought aggressive action but were stifled by politics.
However, not all efforts failed. In 2015, citizens group Urgenda Foundation won a historic case against the Dutch government, resulting in The Netherlands being ordered to dramatically cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. In January, 25 young people sued the Colombian government over climate change. The Colombian Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the government to reduce deforestation and climate change.