Major ruling means young people can sue the US government for climate change

Major ruling means young people can sue the US government for climate change

One of the young plaintiffs in the climate case, Xiuhtezcatl Roske Martinez, pictured during a high-level event on climate change in June 2015. Cover credit: Martin Dixon/H.E. Mr. Sam K. Kutesa on Flickr

One of the young plaintiffs in the climate case, Xiuhtezcatl Roske Martinez, pictured during a high-level event on climate change in June 2015. Cover credit: Martin Dixon/H.E. Mr. Sam K. Kutesa on Flickr

In a period of awkward transition from one presidency to the next, a group of 21 young people in the U.S. have won a ruling which will allow them to sue the U.S. government for climate change.

The ruling, granted by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken, is based on the argument that a stable climate is a fundamental, constitutional right, and stands contrary to all of the anti-climate change news.

Climate change itself was viewed by Aiken as a violation of life, liberty and property rights. A strong argument was put through by the group, who are all between the ages of 9 and 20. They argued that the U.S. federal government has prioritized short-term profits over future generations, which is shown through subsidizing fossil fuel industries and allowing further development of non-renewable energy sources.

The group also came forward as individuals with their own personal examples of how climate change is negatively affecting them and local communities. Kelsey Juliana from Oregon argued that algae blooms pollute the water supply and that low water levels caused by drought kill the wild salmon her fellow citizens eat.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez from Colorado stressed that an increased amount of wildfires and flooding jeopardize his and everyone’s safety. With each personal story, the group claimed overall that damage to the climate should be unconstitutional, and the case was eventually ruled in their favor.

The group has since achieved further prominence, including support from some climate change experts who have singled them out for pushing back against negative regressions.

Michael Burger of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University said, “In the context of Tuesday’s election and the threat of a Trump administration that may well be steadfastly opposed to any climate action whatsoever, this provides some hope that our courts will step forward and protect the health and well-being of current and future generations.”

Burger also said that the case could be taken to the Supreme Court, creating a stronger stand against climate change and the damage it brings.

The young people have also invited President Barack Obama to the settlement table before Donald Trump assumes office in January to promote further action.

Whichever way the decision goes, this important legal case means young people across the U.S. could have a motivation and method to challenge climate change deniers as well as protest further damage to the environment in the years to come.

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