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Forum Post: Kids and Teens Sue Over Climate Change

Posted 6 years ago on Aug. 14, 2015, 9:15 a.m. EST by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Fighting for Next Generation, Kids File Climate Suit Against US Government by Deirdre Fulton

Claiming that the continued development and burning of fossil fuels violates their constitutional rights, 21 young plaintiffs—ranging in age from 8 to 19—filed a landmark climate change lawsuit against the federal government on Wednesday.

“The federal government has known for decades that CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels was causing global warming and dangerous climate change,” said one of the teenage plaintiffs and youth director of Earth Guardians, 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez of Colorado. “It also knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would destabilize our climate system, significantly harming my generation and generations to come.”

Despite that knowledge, the government “continued to authorize and promote fossil fuel extraction, production, consumption, and all their associated emissions—to the grave detriment of future generations,” added attorney Philip Gregory of the California firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, a counsel to the plaintiffs.

Lawyers working on the case say a win for the kids would be no less important, from a strictly legal basis, than Brown v. Board of Education, which established the right to equal educational opportunity, or Obergefell v. Hodges, which much more recently established the freedom to marry.

As MSNBC reports, the lawsuit “debuts a new legal framework to fight climate change, one that portrays federal support for the development and use of fossil fuels as a violation of the Fifth and Ninth Amendments, as well as the public trust doctrine.”

The public trust doctrine ensures “the rights of present and future generations to those essential natural resources that are of public concern to the citizens of our nation,” reads the complaint. “These vital natural resources include at least the air (atmosphere), water, seas, the shores of the sea, and wildlife. The overarching public trust resource is our country’s life-sustaining climate system, which encompasses our atmosphere, waters, oceans, and biosphere. Defendants must take affirmative steps to protect those trust resources.”

Accompanying the youth’s legal complaint (pdf) was an “expert declaration” (pdf) from former NASA scientist James Hansen, who first sounded the alarm on climate change in 1988. Hansen’s granddaughter, 17-year-old Sophie Kivlehan of Pennsylvania, is among the plaintiffs.

“In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal, nature of U.S. climate and energy policy,” Hansen wrote.

“It is now clear, as the relevant scientific community has established for some time, that continued high CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning will further disrupt Earth’s climate system, and that, in turn, will impose profound and mounting risks of ecological, economic and social collapse,” he continued. “In my view, our government’s actions and inactions that cause or contribute to those emissions violate the fundamental rights of Sophie, other Youth, and future generations. Those violated rights include the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to property, the right to equal protection under the law, the right to government protection of public trust resources, and the right to retain a fighting chance to preserve a habitable climate system.”

“In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal, nature of U.S. climate and energy policy.” —James Hansen, climate scientist

The complaint includes each plaintiff’s individual story and the ways in which they are harmed by climate change now and will be in the future if the court does not, as they lawsuit asks, order the federal government to decrease atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to a safe level.

For example, 15-year-old Nathaniel Baring, of Alaska, is described as an “avid Nordic skier” who has been “harmed by the reduced snowfall in recent years.”

Journey Zephier, a 15 year old who lives with his family in Hawaii, has been adversely impacted by rising sea levels, beach erosion, and ocean acidification.

Eleven-year-old Sahara Valentine, an Oregon resident who has asthma, says her condition has been exacerbated by severe climate change.

And Victoria Barrett, a 16 year old from New York, “has become emotionally distressed by the increase in superstorms in the Northeast,” the complaint reads.

The case is part of a global legal campaign led by Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit organization that is coordinating a federal, state, local, and global effort to secure the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate.

And there are signs the strategy could be successful.

In the Netherlands in June, an organization partnered with Our Children’s Trust won a similar case, with a Dutch court ruling that the government has a legal duty to reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

“The state must do more to avert the imminent danger caused by climate change, also in view of its duty of care to protect and improve the living environment,” read a statement from the Hague District Court at the time.

Also in June, a judge in Washington state handed a group of eight young petitioners—also backed by both Our Children’s Trust and Hansen—a landmark win, ordering the Department of Ecology (ECY) to consider statewide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions based on best available science.

“The court’s decision brings a feeling of triumph,” said 14-year-old petitioner Aji Piper in June. “But I know there is still a lot of work to be done. We may have won a battle, but we’re still fighting a bigger war.”



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[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

Gotta love the spirit displayed by some of our young.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

I love that video - I love that legal action - tweet -

'Future generations' sue Obama administration over climate change http://on.msnbc.com/1UD4QP1 via @msnbc

Fossil fuel a Domestic & Foreign THREAT

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago
[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

It is an action that deserves much attention.

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

There are a number of serious legal people who think this could be big, but of course the Robert's Court tends to do whatever it wants to and tends to favor the money.

still being covered, I plan to watch this one


[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 6 years ago

British Patrolling BP contracted to give money to 5 states over 20 years for gulf oil spill

a little insurance those states keep BP around

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

It is my hope that solar will soon make oil uneconomical, I wish we had policy set on the best interest of the people at large, unfortunately it favors the asset holders and many of them want more oil use.

[-] 3 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Solar-generated electricity is already competing well with oil through hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars. Once material engineering comes up with a very strong, cheap, and resilient material to capture the sunlight on our roadways and deserts, oil may well go the way of whale oil. It will always keep its specialized niche in the same way that goldfish love "vacuum-tube" technology better than the really cool LED technology.

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 6 years ago

LED electron quantum jumps

from a crystal layer at higher potential

to a crystal layer at lower potential

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Almost correct. Electrons, being Negatively charged, quantum jump towards higher electric potential from lower electric potential.

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 6 years ago

that's Ben Franklin's fault for arbitrarily assigning electitons as having the negative charge

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Ben Franklin, on the 100-dollar bill, knew elections are negatively charged and the holes later are positively charged to the voters - the law of the conservation of charges.

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 6 years ago

ben franklin recorded electrical charge studies

observing that same charges repeal each other while opposite charges attract

he assigned one charge negative and one charge positive

elections and holes were not recognized as such when the assignment was made

[-] 0 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

Last year solar was the number one source of new electrical generation based on costs. Solar is decreasing in cost thanks in part to the huge investment in renewable energy most people heard about as Solyndra but was also given to Tesla Motors solar has the potential to drop in cost like computing power.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

"The future is digital." has arrived. Now, "the future is quantum-programmable and electric."

[-] 0 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

It's a really good thing that Obama made investments in green energy.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Tesla Motor was a success. Others such as Solyndra were not but what really count are the successes, not the failures. Venture-capital ventures have very low rates of success but overall they are still rather profitable. SolarCity may help provide renewable electricity for Tesla autos.

[-] 0 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

The green investments had a very high success rate, solar panels will provide our electrical needs and electricity will provide our transportation needs, it is a matter of time and markets. Within 10 to 20 years solar cells will become so efficient that the 'sun belt" will begin to power the nation.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Solar cells which I take to be photovoltaic cells have efficiency limit so they may not be optimal. I take the saying, "It's all done with smoke and mirrors!" seriously.

Imagine growing a highly reflective array of non-metallized mirrors consisting of nano-layered material similar to the mother-of-pearl found in a mussel shell to concentrate sunlight deployed over a vast area. Imagine a desert landscape filled with millions and billions of solar fish with mussel-shell-shaped silvery bivalve scales quantum-programmed to concentrate sunlight. Use the smoky graphene to convert the sunlight to electricity. Quantum-destructively interfere the light to breach the photovoltaic efficiency barrier.

Locate the installation in a desert, transmit the electric energy to a population center, and we are all set! California is ideally suited for this venture. If Californians cannot grow crops without much water due to the drought, they can grow solar fish in their deserts.

[-] 2 points by east (110) 6 years ago

''The Clean Power Checkerboard'' by Gar Alperovitz: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32742-the-clean-power-checkerboard and posted here in compliment of your interesting thoughts on this matter.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

A "Permanent Memorial Foundation" sounds great for disbursing the wealth of the deceased to provide universal basic income for all living. Honoring the deceased with the joy of windfall of the living without their suffering from the macabre feelings often endured by the loved ones seems very appropriate.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Sarah Palin might have hit upon the correct ideas for funding universal basic income. She mentioned death tax and death panels. Instead of building solar panels to collect sunlight, we can build death panels to collect the wealth from the deceased, less up to the legally allowed maximal amounts willed to heirs. Cap-and-dividend scheme for carbon emission caps can ride on the death panels'.

It will be a death tax - death panels for all dead and death tax dividend distribution for all living. As deaths are permanent, so can this death tax dividend distribution. Deaths shall set our living people free - Tod macht frei.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

In my view, success of a government-subsidized enterprise means achieving independence of the government's subsidies to become fully privately capitalized. Tesla achieved that when it had a successful IPO. Chinese government's support for Solyndra's competitors killed it while our party kids were staring down each other playing chicken over the candies. We truly had more important things to attend to such as how to shut down and resuscitate our government.

There is absolutely no doubt that solar power will play a far more significant role in 10-20 years but it may not take the form of solar cells. Well, the form does not matter, the substance (clean electricity) does.

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

We have at hand an incredible opportunity to radically shake up the system in the Bernie Sanders candidacy, long time supporters of OWS are realizing that all over the nation and the web, change is possible but one must seize opportunities and press the advantage.

I believe a number of aspects of life should be funded in a non capitalistic manner, health care, education; energy use seems a good choice for economic incentive, so the government should only work to encourage R&D as it would in any developing promising industry and to ensure the marketplace works to reflect the true cost including environmental/health cost ect..

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

What you consider as true costs can be vastly different from others.

The Chinese apparently believe that many cancers caused by environmental pollutions are no big deal. They even have the world's greatest cigarette manufacturer and pusher in their government. Many Indians still believe that it is natural to defecate outdoors and not use toilets. Like our lazy American kids, Canada and Australia believe that curbing greenhouse gas emissions is "just too hard."

I grant that it is Natural for the Chinese to get cancers, the Indians to get diarrhea, drink urine, and eat feces downstream, and big countries like Canada and Australia to emit lots of carbon pollution.

The Chinese broke new grounds for Capitalism by selling canned fresh air. The Indians have their "Don't shake your south-paw with me!" The U.S. had its Cuyahoga River catching fire in the 1970s so Boy! Damn the cigarette! - we got the wake-up call and passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

Only if our party kids would finish their candies and get onto their "It's too hard!" throne in the peoples' temple that is being renovated (hopefully from only a bowl of water with no tissue paper to a warm-water-spray, blow-dry, perfume-equipped bidet, like the leapfrogging done by the Saudis). Kids, put out the cigarettes, drink more water, eat some fibers, and lean forward while straining. It can be done differently from the Chinese and the Indians!

[-] 0 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 6 years ago

oil is collected solar energy over billions of years from water plant and animal life

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

the Iraq War is a result of the Bush Presidency

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 6 years ago

good thing we have all these weapons left over from the cold war to use on war

[-] 0 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

we make new ones all the time, because Americans don't vote

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 6 years ago

senate won't vote on 10 to 40 air strikes a day

[-] 0 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

so you blame the people other people picked because you are too lazy to pick?

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 6 years ago

the president asked for approval on the air strike campaign and no senator brought it to debate

[-] 0 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

post the link

airstrikes kill people, could be worst, could be 2,000 year old Temples


Not that you care but we do airstrikes because of the Iraq War and we got that because Nader wanted to see his name on a ballot, and so Nader could see his name on a ballot those temples were destroyed.

[-] 2 points by Nevada1 (5843) 6 years ago


[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

Now - "that's" what I am talking about = public legal actions

I hope they remember to include as part of their suit - that alternatives to fossil fuel have been available for a long time - so it's not like the government's hands were tied.

[-] 2 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

More new electrical generation was built solar last year than any other type, not because government mandated it, though it should, but because it is the most economical already, not only should we put people to work repairing our infrastructure we should build new infrastructure to support electric car charging and more solar power in public places.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

Solar power is great because it can be installed anywhere and everywhere and it does not require a great feat of engineering. Combined with wind turbines in less intensely sunny areas (wind turbines which also do not have to be a great feat of engineering) and you have a pretty low cost way of generating a lot of electricity (no fuel costs - wind is free sunlight is free).

Tesla has been very proactive in wanting to implement a network of solar charging stations - i will have to look again and see how they are doing - as I can see where the fossil fuel establishment would like to block their way.

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 5 years ago

There is some reason for hope along the electric car/solar power line, the suit is still going forward:


[-] 2 points by factsrfun (8300) from Phoenix, AZ 6 years ago

Yes haven't seen anymore on this but I am setting up a Google news alert so I can see if anybody covers it. I click on stories like this to promote them.

[-] 1 points by Nevada1 (5843) 5 years ago

Thank you for your effort on this.

Lived in Los Angeles area as a young kid. Smog was so bad, that our eyes would burn. Not healthy.

Wondering if so many sinkhole collapses of recent, are caused by acid rain,