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Teenagers' Climate Lawsuit Against Trump Can Proceed, Supreme Court Rules

Children will be able to present "scientific evidence linking the U.S. government's actions and policies to climate change impacts like wildfire and droughts " in U.S. District Court

The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's request that it halt a case brought by several teenagers and children, who say the president has not done enough to help halt the climate crisis. (Photo: Matt Wade/Flickr/cc)

A group of teenagers and younger children secured a victory in their case against the Trump administration this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that their lawsuit demanding that the federal government take stronger action against the climate crisis can proceed.

The high court rejected the Trump administration's request that the case be halted. The ruling follows similar decisions from the U.S. District Court in Oregon and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case, known as Juliana vs. the United States, will now be heard by the Oregon court.

"Kids understand the threats climate change will have on our future. I'm not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don't have time to waste." —Zoe Foster, plaintiff

"This decision should give young people courage and hope that their third branch of government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, has given them the green light to go to trial in this critical case about their unalienable rights," said Julia Olson, chief legal counsel and executive director of Our Children's Trust, which is representing the plaintiffs. "We look forward to presenting the scientific evidence of the harms and dangers these children face as a result of the actions their government has taken to cause the climate crisis.”

Twenty-one children and teenagers—ranging in age from eight to 19—first brought the case against the federal government in 2015, arguing that the Obama administration was not doing enough to curb carbon emissions and other activities that contribute to the warming of the Earth.

"Kids understand the threats climate change will have on our future," then-13-year-old Zoe Foster, one of the plaintiffs, told Slate at the time. "I'm not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don't have time to waste. I'm pushing my government to take real action on climate, and I won't stop until change is made."

Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the president has withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and spearheaded a number of anti-regulatory actions, weakening clean car standards and rolling back portions of the Clean Air Act. 

The plaintiffs argue that such actions violate their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"The scientific evidence linking the U.S. government's actions and policies to climate change impacts like wildfire and droughts that harm us youth must be presented before our country's justice system in its entirety to ensure that our rights may be protected," said a 21-year-old plaintiff named Jacob. 

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