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Supporters of Youth Climate Lawsuit Not Deterred by Court Ruling

A climate change lawsuit rejected by a federal court last week argued that the U.S. government is violating young Americans' constitutional rights to a clean environment. (greenpeace.org)
A climate change lawsuit rejected by a federal court last week argued that the U.S. government is violating young Americans' constitutional rights to a clean environment. (greenpeace.org)
January 20, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The young people who took the federal government to court to force action on climate change say they'll continue their battle, despite a federal court ruling against their 2015 lawsuit.

As co-counsel for the plaintiffs, Phil Gregory says the judges agreed the youths brought compelling evidence that action is needed to prevent injuries from climate change.

But the court ultimately ruled two-to-one that Congress or the executive branch, not the courts, are the places for action.

Gregory finds the argument unconvincing, because young people who'll be affected by climate change can't vote and don't have political power.

"To say, 'Oh, go to Congress, or go to the executive branch and get them to do something,' I mean, that's just a hollow gesture, because the youth of America can't do that," Gregory states.

Friday's decision in the lawsuit -- Juliana v. United States -- reverses an earlier district court ruling that would have let the case go forward.

Gregory says plaintiffs will file a petition for a re-hearing before the full Ninth Circuit Court by the end of January, but the court isn't required to consider it.

Gregory says the 21 plaintiffs, now between ages 12 and 23, are seeking no monetary damages. Instead, they want a court order that the federal government address actions that cause global warming, such fossil fuel emissions that exacerbate the climate crisis.

"What's troubling is the fact that the federal judiciary feels that it cannot check the policies and actions of the other two branches, when the evidence clearly shows that these policies and actions are harming American citizens," he states.

The five years since the lawsuit was filed have been the hottest years on record.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM