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Friday, 14 August 2015 06:13

Youth Sue US Government for Imperiling Their Future Through Inaction on Climate

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aaaaaaaisaac33Since adults continue to accelerate global warming, 21 young people are suing the federal government in an effort to protect their futures on the earth. Isaac Vergun is one of them. (Photo: Our Children's Trust)

Politicians may dither and delay in reducing global warming, but 21 young people in the United States are taking action to try and save the planet from an environmental implosion. They know their future depends on it.

On August 12 - International Youth Day - Our Children's Trust and the Earth Guardians filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Oregon on behalf of these youth. The suit, according to a news release issued jointly by Our Children's Trust and Earth Guardians, charges "that, in causing climate change, the federal government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, and has failed to protect essential public trust resources."

According to the two organizations that focus on youth advocacy for a sustainable planetary future,

The [legal] complaint alleges the Federal Government is violating the youth’s constitutional rights by promoting the development and use of fossil fuels. These young Plaintiffs are challenging the federal government’s national fossil fuel programs, as well as the proposed Jordan Cove LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] export terminal in Coos Bay, OR. Plaintiffs seek to hold President Obama and various federal agencies responsible for continued fossil fuel exploitation. The Federal Government has known for decades that fossil fuels are destroying the climate system. No less important than in the Civil Rights cases, Plaintiffs seek a court order requiring the President to immediately implement a national plan to decrease atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (“CO2”) to a safe level: 350 ppm by the year 2100....

 “We uncovered shocking admissions by the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency: they have known for decades of the extreme dangers of fossil fuels,” noted Philip Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, of Burlingame, CA, counsel to the Plaintiffs. “The Complaint explains how Defendants have known since at least 1965 that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels would create perilous climate change, with enormous and harmful impacts for future generations – including our children."

President Obama has generally done little to rein in the fossil fuel industry, most recently allowing drilling in the Arctic. And critics have argued that Obama’s White House-touted Clean Power Plan to reduce coal plant carbon emissions is too little, too late. In an August 2 article in Slate, Eric Holthaus - a meteorologist and journalist - writes that "the new rule puts America on a middling emissions-reduction pathway, at best." In short, incremental steps may likely leave young people around the world a legacy of atmospheric destruction.

An August 13 MSNBC article states that former NASA director James Hansen - a high-profile advocate for taking aggressive action immediately to reduce global warming - continues to be unimpressed by White House action to allegedly prevent climate change:

[The lawsuit] includes a claim by James Hansen, a climate researcher who headed NASA’s Goddard’s Institute for Space Studies for more than 30 years and first warned Congress of global warming in 1988. Hansen’s granddaughter is one of the plaintiffs, and Hansen himself - fresh from calling Obama’s climate change policies “practically worthless” - is listed as a “guardian for future generations.”    

“We have a global climate emergency,” Hansen said on Wednesday. “I aim to testify on behalf of young people. Their future hangs in the balance.” 

The suit also 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.

second MSNBC article on the legal action focused on the young people who are taking on the federal government and the ways in which they are already suffering from environmental deterioration: 

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 15-year-old climate activist from Boulder, Colorado, and an “indigenous, environmental, eco hip-hop artist,” as he told MSNBC earlier this year. He’s also a member of Obama’s youth council, and a three-time speaker at the United Nations....

Martinez “suffers harm to his spiritual and cultural practices” as a result of the U.S. government’s support of fossil fuels, and the climate change that results, the lawsuit alleges. That’s partly because Martinez is of Aztec descent, and his culture demands honor and respect for the earth. But the lawsuit also alleges that the setting for these sacred rituals has been burnt, dried, flooded, infested, and thrashed to the brink of destruction....

Levi Draheim is the youngest plaintiff, an 8-year-old from Indialantic, Florida. His allegations are also some of the most severe. He suffers the drought and heat that many of the other plaintiffs allege. But because his childhood home is on a barrier island, he lives in fear of storms as well. Climate change, the lawsuit argues, has already fouled best part of Draheim’s home, the once-pristine beaches and lagoons that decorate the area.

In the last few years, he’s noticed a “seaweed invasion,” a sulfurous tide of sargassum that rots on shore and sends a spoiled egg smell wafting over visitors. The Indian River Lagoon is already a no-go zone for Draheim, because of the what the lawsuit suggests is an uptick in climate-related bacteria that devours flesh. He is similarly limited to certain safe areas of the Atlantic Ocean “due to an increase in flesh-eating bacteria.” [Italics inserted by BuzzFlash.]

Xiuhtezcatl and Levi are, obviously, just two examples of the 21 children filing the court case. In turn, these 21 youth who want to grow older in an environment that doesn't threaten the viability of life on this planet represent young people throughout the United States and world.

It is their futures that are at stake, up against the plunder and greed of unfettered capitalism that is ravaging the earth and atmosphere for the sake of short-term profit.


Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout.