A group of 21 youth climate activists scored a major victory in the courts on Friday: The plaintiffs, aged 8 to 19, allege unconstitutional discrimination by a federal government more interested in burning fossil fuels than protecting the rights to life, liberty, and property of young people. The Oregon federal judge hearing the case, Thomas Coffin, said they have a point.
Denying the federal government’s motion to dismiss the “relatively unprecedented lawsuit,” Judge Coffin wrote:
The court must accept the allegations as true and those allegations plausibly allege harm, though widespread, that is concrete. … the intractability of the debates before Congress and state legislatures and the alleged valuing of short term economic interest despite the cost to human life, necessitates a need for the courts to evaluate the constitutional parameters of the action or inaction taken by the government.
In other words, given the ultra-polarized political stalemate on climate change, a bunch of kids suing the government over decades of unnecessarily slow action may be the best shot humanity has left at addressing the problem before dangerous changes are locked in. The suit is a radical challenge to the status quo in an era of radical environmental change.
“The future of our generation is at stake,” said 16-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett in a statement. “People label our generation as dreamers, but hope is not the only tool we have.”