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A child holds a sign at the March for Science in Washington, D.C. in April 2017. (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

Children Sue Trump Admin for 'Reckless and Deliberate Indifference' to Climate Threat

"We must hold the federal government accountable for the long-term environmental harm that is propagating under its direction," said Clean Air Council's Joseph Minott. "It's time to fight back."

Andrea Germanos

Two Pennsylvania children and a Philadelphia-based environmental organization filed suit on Monday against the Trump administration for its gutting of climate regulations, laws, and policies—actions which show the government's "reckless and deliberate indifference to the established clear and present dangers of climate change."

"We must hold the federal government accountable for the long-term environmental harm that is propagating under its direction. It's time to fight back," said Clean Air Council executive director and chief counsel Joseph Minott.

The suit (pdf), filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, names as defendants President Donald Trump, the Energy Department, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, and argues that through the administration's rollbacks, which interfere "with a stable climate system," they violated the public trust doctrine and infringed upon the defendants' Fifth and Ninth Amendment rights.

Among the actions cited in the suit are ditching the Paris climate accord, stopping methane emissions reporting by oil and gas companies, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, proposing cuts to federal agencies dealing with climate change, proposing the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, and purging scientists from the EPA board of scientific counselors.

All such actions, the suit argues, "will cause irreversible and catastrophic harm to the natural systems critical to plaintiffs' rights to life, liberty, and property." They will also "cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet's ecosystem, thereby violating plaintiffs' fundamental right to a life-sustaining climate system."

The suit adds that the administration has relied "on junk science to wage a war on facts, data, and reliable principles and methods arising out of scientific, technical, and specialized knowledge" in its threats to "a life-sustaining climate system and an atmosphere and oceans that are free from dangerous levels of anthropogenic CO2." That's despite the fact that "the United States government has known for decades that climate change presents a clear and present danger to the health and welfare of its citizens and an immediate threat to the planet."

The child plaintiffs are directly impacted by the administration's actions, the suit says.

The seven-year-old plaintiff is experiencing direct harm as a result of the worsening climate situation, not only because of his allergies but because of increasing temperatures and extreme weather that have interfered with his enjoyment of outdoor activities. For the 11-year-old plaintiff, climate change is worsening his asthma. On top of that, he's "experienc[ing] anxiety about the potentially irreversible impact of climate change on the planet and future generations, including his own children and grandchildren."

According to Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), "While the U.S. government's actions on climate change prior to this administration fall far short of what is needed, they provide a baseline level of protection that cannot and must not be reversed"—yet "the Trump administration continues its campaign to eviscerate vital climate protections and destroy the scientific tools needed to assess, reduce, and respond to climate risks."

"From undermining the Paris agreement to dismantling vital climate satellites to jettisoning guidance on climate and infrastructure, the defendants have demonstrated a reckless disregard for the lives, livelihoods, and rights of U.S. residents and people around the world. In so doing," he continued, "they have created a clear violation of fundamental rights that can and should be urgently addressed by the courts."

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