The youth-driven lawsuit over climate change continued battle with Trump administration this week. In response to a petition from the Department of Justice last week to the United States Supreme Court, designed to stop the suit from going to trial on October 29, attorneys for the young people responded on Tuesday.
In their response, the young plaintiff’s attorneys in Juliana v. United States highlighted numerous mischaracterizations by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice in its most recent filing.
Among them, the youth say:
* The case is a civil rights case, not an environmental one
* The length of the trial (likely 50-days) and its cost are not a legitimate basis to stop a trial on the constitutional rights of children
* Contrary to the assertions of the Trump administration, the trial will not intrude on the ability of the executive branch to carry out its function
Begun in Eugene, Oregon in 2015, the suit was filed by young people between the ages of 11 and 22, who say the federal government has known about the harms caused by climate change since the 1950s, but despite this, has acted purposely for decades to create a national energy system that brings about oil and gas emissions that cause climate change.
Juliana v United States is not about the government’s “failure to act” on climate. Instead, the 21 young plaintiffs say that the U.S government, through its deliberate and affirmative actions, has knowingly created a national energy system that causes climate change, and this deprives the younger generation of their constitutional rights to life liberty and property.
The suit also asks a judge to order the federal government to create a national recovery plan that reduces carbon dioxide emissions to 350 parts per million by the year 2100 and stabilize the climate. 350 parts per million is considered by scientist to be the safe concentration of this gas in the atmosphere.
Fossil fuel emissions, which have increased drastically over the last few hundred years, now stand at 410 parts per million.
The Department of Justice filing last week is the second in three months designed to delay or stop the trial. After it, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued a temporary stay to the proceedings until the Court reviewed the youth’s response.
Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for the plaintiffs said, “The Supreme Court had never before stopped a trial for the reasons argued by the defendant. I’m confident our brief will assure the Chief Justice that there is no intrusion into the abilities of the executive branch to do its job while the Department of Justice defends this case at trial.”
Juliana v United States is one of many related actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by the Our Children’s Trust organization and all seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.
The United States Supreme Court refused to dismiss the suit earlier this year when the Department of Justice filed another action to delay the trial. However, the Court changed its profile in September with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, who replaced the more moderate Anthony Kennedy.
The young people and their lawyers say they are prepared to go to trial in Eugene, as previously scheduled, on October 29.