Greta Thunberg is a fifteen year old Swedish girl who has given a TED talk about climate change. She’s influenced other kids to skip school on Fridays to raise awareness about the problem. I wrote about her here.
Now, I want to tell you about Kelsey Juliana. She’s a University of Oregon student who’s one of twenty one kids (ages 11-22) suing the US saying that the government knowingly failed to protect them from climate change. They come from ten different states and the youngest is in sixth grade.
The plaintiffs (the children), led by a legal team, are arguing that a safe climate is a civil right. They want clean air and water and would like to avoid the famines, floods and fires predicted if we don’t start changing our ways. I can’t blame them.
There has actually been multiple climate change lawsuits already. So, why is this one different?
First- They’re not seeking money for damages. They’re trying to force the government to make changes in order to decrease our CO2 emissions.
Second- They’ve already survived several legal battles and motions to dismiss and gone further than other similar lawsuits in the past.
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 and initially the fossil fuel industry intervened, joining the US government in an attempt to get the case dismissed. They failed. Later, in 2017, the fossil fuel defendants asked to be released from the case.
Why would they do that?
A Washington Post article explained that it was likely to avoid “questions about the industry’s position on the effects of climate change on water supplies, agriculture and other natural systems, as well as the ability of human societies and natural ecosystems to adapt.”
They would be forced to tell the truth, in court, about the effects fossil fuels are having on our world.
The government has tried to prevent this lawsuit from ever coming to court. In an article on forbes.com, Jame Conca wrote reported that one of the 19 year old plaintiffs said: “The lengths my own government is going to to get this case thrown out and avoid trial is absurd and offensive. This case is not about money. This is not about the 'harms to the government' or how much money the government has paid its experts or how many hours their lawyers have to work. This is about my future and the future of our youngest generations. This is about fundamental constitutional rights of children. We are simply asking for our right to be heard.”
Since 2017, the courts have been ruling on motions causing a delay from the original trial date of Feb 5, 2018. But why delay it?
Julia Olson, an Oregon lawyer, explained in a Sixty Minutes episode. The US government admits “that the government has known for over 50 years that burning fossil fuels would cause climate change. And they don't dispute that we are in a danger zone on climate change. And they don't dispute that climate change is a national security threat and a threat to our economy and a threat to people's lives and safety. They do not dispute any of those facts of the case.”
So, if you don’t believe in climate change, I have news for you. Our own US government recognizes that climate change will be catastrophic problem. For fifty years, since President Lyndon Johnson was in office, both Democrats and Republican presidents have known that burning fossil fuels was causing climate change. And they’ve failed to address it.
Steve Kroft (Sixty Minutes) summarized why its a big deal to keep it out of the courts, “You're talking about a case that could change economics in this country.” Without a doubt, addressing climate change would be a massive financial endeavor. But what if, like the FDR’s New Deal and the war that followed, this serves as an economic stimulus to our government?
And more importantly, do we even have a choice? Don’t we owe it to our children and grandchildren to make changes to protect their world?
Julia Olson says that the government does not want to go to court “Because they will lose on the evidence that will be presented at trial.”
As usual, I stand on the side of the kids...the one's fighting to save us all.
If you’re a kid and want to add your name to the list of those concerned about the climate and in support of Kelsey Juliana, you can do that HERE.