Youth Climate Change Lawsuit Against Federal Government Can Proceed

Youth Climate Change Lawsuit Against Federal Government Can Proceed

Last Thursday, a Federal Judge in Oregon allowed a group of young climate change activists to proceed with their lawsuit against the Obama Administration for failing to protect them from the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

The plaintiffs, which include 21 nationwide youths between the ages of 9 and 20 and renowned climate scientist James Hansen, allege that the government failed to curb greenhouse gas emissions even though it has known for decades that carbon emissions cause climate change. They argue that the government’s actions violated their constitutional right to life, liberty, and property, in addition to having violated its obligation to hold certain natural resources in trust for future generations.

Oregon teen Kelsey Juliana is listed as the lead plaintiff in the case. She is quoted in an Oregonlive article stating that “this will be trial of the century that will determine if we have a right to a livable future.” Another one of the plaintiffs is 15-year-old Nick Venner of Lakewood, Colorado. He stated in a CNN article that “I chose to join the case because it sounded like something I could actually do. I think we have a really good chance of winning. It’s hard for legal experts to deny the rights of young people.”

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken denied motions by the government and energy industry trade groups to dismiss the lawsuit. In her decision, Judge Aiken wrote that “federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law and the world has suffered for it.” Judge Aiken also stated that “a deep resistance to change runs through defendants’ and intervenors’ arguments for dismissal.”

Judge Aiken’s ruling is hailed by environmentalists and legal scholars for allowing climate change activists their day in court. Julia Olsan, chief legal counsel for the plaintiffs stated in an Oregonlive article that President-elect Trump and his administration will be substituted in as the defendants if President Obama does not settle the suit out of court.

Judge Aiken’s ruling can be accessed here Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana v. United States.


This article is intended to provide general information and, therefore, should not be treated as legal advice. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.

Author: Ryan Lorch

Editor: Rudy E. Verner