Twenty-one people aged between eight to 20 years old are taking on the government and demanding action to stop climate change. The case is due to commence in the U.S. District Court in Oregon today.
Fighting alongside the young people demanding climate change action is former NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen. The group of climate change fighters is being supported financially by the not-for-profit organization Our Children’s Trust.
Originally, the group of climate change fighters were laughed at for trying to take on the government but now it seems their plight may be successful. This is not the first time people fighting for action against climate change have taken on a government and won.
According to Ensia, in the Netherlands last year a similar group was successful in taking on their government, which is now being ordered to cut emissions faster.
In a separate case already passed in the U.S., the state of Washington has been forced to direct regulators to cap emissions and curb them by 50 percent by 2050, according to MSNBC.
The current case in the Oregon courts is being championed by 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez who has become the face for the current climate change movement and is the youth director of a group called Earth Guardians.
Martinez was raised in Colorado and has been part of the environmental movement since the age of 6. He has appeared before the United Nations General Assembly to speak about climate change and is passionate about the fight. Martinez has a strong following and appeared in a YouTube video urging people to stand up to governments and voice out their concerns about climate change.
“Our generation is going to be the most impacted by climate change therefore our generation has the most at stake and we have the most power in this matter.”
Martinez and the Earth Guardians encourage an “army of teens in over 50 countries to demand sustainable policy from our world leaders.” The teens have created the tag GenerationRYSE, which stands for Rising Youth Sustainable Earth.
Today, the U.S. court will consider whether the young group of climate change fighters have the right to sue the U.S. government, President Barack Obama, and other federal agencies. If so, they will be charged for their failure to tackle climate change.
Philip Gregory, lawyer for the plaintiffs, thinks the climate change champions have a good chance at winning.
“Congress and the President have not acted effectively to solve the climate crisis. As with civil rights cases, the courts must act.”
If successful in the U.S., the lawsuit would force the government to “implement a national plan to decrease carbon dioxide in the air to 350 parts per million by the end of the century,” News.com.au reported, and that would just be the beginning.
Professor Timothy Stephens of Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, said he believed the lawsuit would build momentum and be part of a movement to force governments globally to act on climate change.
I think we will see lots of innovative legal actions right around the world to force governments to act. We will see more litigation, especially because governments are not taking meaningful steps to cut emissions.If there are enough cases over time the law can change quite rapidly.
David Suzuki, an environmental activist, has also voiced his opinion about the climate change movement and the success of the GenerationRYSE and similar movements across the globe. Suzuki has also led a movement and helped to change Canada’s constitution to include people’s right to a healthy environment. These changes, if effective in the U.S., would see people’s rights to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat safe food legally recognized at all levels of government. “It reverses responsibility completely,” Dr. Suzuki said.
[Photo by Patrice Pierrot/AAP]