US kids' lawsuit over climate change gathers steam

November 21, 2015 by Kerry Sheridan
A lawsuit over climate change filed by 21 young Americans has gained the attention of the fossil fuel industry, which is joining
A lawsuit over climate change filed by 21 young Americans has gained the attention of the fossil fuel industry, which is joining the US government to oppose the kids' demands for sharper pollution cuts

A lawsuit over climate change filed by 21 young Americans has gained the attention of the fossil fuel industry, which is joining the US government to oppose the kids' demands for sharper pollution cuts.

The plaintiffs, aged eight to 19, include the granddaughter of renowned climate scientist James Hansen, formerly of NASA and a well-known advocate of reducing the greenhouse gases that are causing the planet to heat up.

The plaintiffs want the government to commit to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and implement "a science-based climate recovery plan" that protects the Earth for future generations, according to the Oregon-based group, Our Children's Trust.

"This case will put indisputable science about climate change squarely in front of the federal judiciary," said the group, which filed its lawsuit against President Barack Obama's administration in August, and has filed multiple state lawsuits over the past several years.

They are calling on the US District Court of Oregon—the state where most of the plaintiffs live—to order the government to "swiftly phase down " so that atmospheric CO2 concentrations "are no more than 350 parts per million by 2100."

Atmospheric CO2 concentration is currently around 400 ppm, a level unprecedented in modern history and one that has raised alarm among many climate scientists.

Meanwhile, the planet is on track for its hottest year since 1880, amid key climate talks later this month in Paris that will reveal how much world leaders are prepared to do to save the environment.

In a sign that the kids' lawsuit is causing some concern to industry interests, powerful oil and coal companies filed earlier this month for permission to join the US government in opposing it.

They include the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers—which represents ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Koch Industries and more—the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers.

How much more CO2 can we emit?
How much CO2 we have used up and what more we can use before global warming spirals out of control. 135 x 79 mm
"The fossil fuel industry doesn't want additional pressure on the federal government to run a stricter climate change program," said Cornell University law professor Gerald Torres, an expert on environmental law who is not involved in the case.

"It does suggest they are taking this lawsuit seriously. And I think it ought to be taken seriously," Torres told AFP.

Dangers ignored

The plaintiffs say the federal government has known about the danger of carbon emissions since 1965, but has not done enough to stem them.

Specifically, pledges in the 1990s by Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and stop global warming were "never implemented."

This lack of action shows that the " has violated the youngest generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources," Our Children's Trust has said.

In other words, the government has jeopardized such vital natural resources as the air, seas, coastlines, water and wildlife.

Instead, the US government has "continued to permit, authorize and subsidize fossil fuel extraction, development, consumption and exportation -– activities producing enormous quantities of CO2 emissions that have substantially caused the rise in the atmospheric concentration of CO2," said the legal documents.

The Obama administration has issued a Clean Power Plan which aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030
The Obama administration has issued a Clean Power Plan which aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030

The political atmosphere in the United States is also contentious, with many Republican lawmakers skeptical of—or outright denying—the existence of human-caused .

"At the national level, the debate is pretty much stuck," said Torres, adding that he thinks the kids' case "is legally sound."

He said it raised "the fundamental question which every person in a democracy ought to ask every day when they wake up: What is for?"

The Obama administration has issued a Clean Power Plan which aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. And the US president has rejected the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, a project many environmentalists had opposed.

But Hansen and the children involved in the suit say these measures do not go far enough.

According to Alex Loznak, a youth plaintiff in the case from Oregon, the intervention of fossil fuel companies "makes it clear that the industry is scared."

"As Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' The fight has begun, and we will win," he said in a statement.

Explore further: Youths across US suing to push government on climate change

Related Stories

Could companies someday make a profit off unwanted CO2?

November 18, 2015

The world has a carbon dioxide problem, and to fix it, much attention has been paid to renewable energy sources, which don't emit the greenhouse gas. But what if we could turn waste CO2 into marketable chemicals and fuels ...

What is global warming?

November 17, 2015

Soon, the world will gather in Paris to forge a global pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for dangerous levels of global warming.

Timing is everything for renewable energy use

November 12, 2015

As the world prepares for the UN climate talks in Paris later this month, researchers warn that there's no time to waste in shifting to renewable energy sources if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. That's especially ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

15 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

marcush
1 / 5 (1) Nov 21, 2015
Why is Obama opposing this? He should know better.
Egleton
5 / 5 (3) Nov 21, 2015
Tobacco!
jeffensley
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 21, 2015
Oh the naivete... only someone who hasn't worked, paid bills, and doesn't grasp the limitations of our understanding could come up with something like this.
axemaster
5 / 5 (8) Nov 21, 2015
Good, and I hope they win.
axemaster
4.6 / 5 (10) Nov 21, 2015
We've had a climate change protest going for 31 days now at MIT, outside the president's office. It's been really inspiring, with strong faculty and student support. The goal is to force the university to divest its investments in fossil fuels. Hundreds of millions of dollars make a loud statement.

It is really disappointing that this is even necessary though. Some of the secretaries in his office were giggling about "the climate change myth", which really baffled us. They ended up arguing the point with us, at which point we realized that they weren't operating on anything recognizable as logic or factual information.

I often forget that at MIT I live in a bubble, where it's the norm for everybody to be knowledgeable about science. Talking to people from "outside" is difficult and exhausting since you have to explain every little thing...
MR166
1 / 5 (7) Nov 22, 2015
"We've had a climate change protest going for 31 days now at MIT, outside the president's office. It's been really inspiring, with strong faculty and student support."

If US students spent a little more time studying and less time protesting perhaps they could become employable and move from their mother's basements. If you want to protest something protest that fact that the universities are turning all of you into indentured servants with tuitions that are increasing at high multiples to the inflation rate.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (8) Nov 22, 2015
A lawsuit over climate change filed by 21 young Americans has gained the attention of the fossil fuel industry, which is joining the US government to oppose the kids' demands for sharper pollution cuts.

Nice. Either the kids win or it ends in a PR desaster for fossil fuels/government. Whoever dreamed this one up should get a pat on the back.

Why is Obama opposing this?

Because Obama is not a dictator. He's as much at the mercy of the big families that run the US (Bushs, Kennedys, etc. ) as any president before him. And most of these families are very heavily invested in oil, coal or powerplants in general.
MR166
1 / 5 (6) Nov 22, 2015
What everyone here does not want to admit is that suits like this are all part of the executive branch's plan to allow the courts to set environmental law and bypass the congress. A private entity sues the government which does a half hearted job of defending the nations laws and voila regulations are changed. Votes in Congress, We don't need no stinken votes in Congress!

Lawyers get rich with taxpayers money and everyone is happy.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (6) Nov 22, 2015
Oh the naivete... only someone who hasn't worked, paid bills, and doesn't grasp the limitations of our understanding could come up with something like this.


You got that right, goes for their ring leader as well;

aged eight to 19, include the granddaughter of renowned climate scientist James Hansen, formerly of NASA and a well-known advocate of reducing the greenhouse gases that are causing the planet to heat up.
mikedalyllama
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 22, 2015
I just think it's weird that al gore owns the carbon taxing company blood and gore a ngo that all world governments must pay for carbon emissions...it's all trash Google climate gate...why can't anyone see the data on climate change ....if people don't think agendas can alter scientific findings then they are as naive as these children
gkam
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 22, 2015
Are we hearing the last screams of frustration and defiance from the Deniers?

What will they do if the kids (and the rest of the Earth) win?
MR166
1 / 5 (5) Nov 22, 2015
http://notrickszo...altered/

Falsified data seems to be the most valuable commodity produced by these scientists and government agencies. That's why the progressives idolize the Communist Chinese so much, they do not need to waste all that time and effort with phony science. They just tell the people what the new policy is and the people just bend over and say Baaaa! Mention their system to the POTUS and he starts to drool.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (5) Nov 22, 2015
Falsified data seems to be the most valuable commodity produced by these scientists and government agencies
@Mr
you linked an ARTICLE that mentions two other articles, at best, this is linking OPINION, but considering the evidence, it is a false claim

now, this guy is a professor, and should know that the absolute BEST way to actually change a problem in science is to do what? that's right... publish a peer reviewed paper with the evidence
(and given the site mentions the links to freely available data, this shouldn't be difficult, even for a geriatric Alzheimer patient typing with their tongue)

so why didn't he?

so right off the bat we can dismiss your conspiractist ideation as irrelevant as it is only supported by your delusional requirement to find anything to justify your belief

but then we have to consider the motivations of a "professor" who refuses to use the peer review system to fix a "problem" with studies/data

smells fishy
leetennant
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 23, 2015
Oh, but see, captain stumpy, it won't get published because of the 200 year global conspiracy of every scientist, organisation and journal in the world to not print his work. Didn't you know?
jeffensley
1 / 5 (3) Nov 25, 2015
Are we hearing the last screams of frustration and defiance from the Deniers?

What will they do if the kids (and the rest of the Earth) win?


Watch with humor and contempt as world governing bodies collect increasing amounts of wealth and pretend they have control of the climate.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.