Kids take a stand for climate change
Kids take a stand for climate change Teenage environmental activist Aji Piper, 15, holds up a tee shirt he was symbolically presenting to Bill Gates as he stands with Wren Wagenbach, 14, right, and Lara Fain, 13 and other youth after a rally in Seattle. The three are among eight youth activists who petitioned Washington state last year to adopt stricter science-based regulations to protect them against climate change. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Kids take a stand for climate change
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They can't vote yet, but dozens of young people want a say in the planet's future. So minors nationwide have been suing states and the federal government in recent years.  They want to push action on climate change.
They say their generation will bear the brunt of global warming.  And, that government at every level has a responsibility to protect natural resources, including the atmosphere, as a "public trust" for future generations.
The Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children's Trust has been leading efforts to file lawsuits or administrative petitions in every state and against the federal government. Some of the youth-led cases have been dismissed.  Others are pending in states including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Oregon.
"None of them have gotten to the finish line," said Michael Gerrard. He is a professor and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. "It's an uphill climb. The U.S. courts have so far not wanted to set climate policy."
Other experts say it's unclear how a state can combat a global problem.
In Seattle, eight activists between ages 10 and 15 petitioned Washington state last year.  They want the state to adopt stricter science-based regulations to protect them against climate change. The case has been moving through a state court.
"We're the ones who have to live with it if the oceans are acidic and the planet is 5 degrees warmer," said Gabriel Mandell, 13.  He is an eighth-grader and plaintiff in the case. "The snowpack is melting. Ocean is acidifying. The Earth is warming. Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. And we need to fix it."
Mandell and other youths represented by the Western Environmental Law Center argue that Washington state has failed to reduce carbon emissions based on the best available science. They say the government has violated its duties under the state constitution and the legal principle called the public trust doctrine.  The doctrine requires the government to protect shared resources.
The state said in court documents that the Washington Department of Ecology was working on adopting a rule to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
"Climate change is the most important environmental problem," said Stu Clark, Washington's air quality program manager. "We need to do whatever we can. We are doing what we can with what we have."
Nationwide, the cases need to pass certain legal hurdles. Those include determining that the public trust doctrine applies to the Earth's atmosphere or that the children have standing to sue. The cases have cleared some hurdles but not all, said Gerrard.
"I don't think this litigation is going to be successful because climate change is a global problem.  And it's not clear what a state could do," added Richard Stewart.  He is a law professor at New York University. "A state could do certain things. But it can only make an infinitesimal contribution" to a global problem.
In Oregon, two Eugene teens are appealing after a state judge rejected their petition in May. The judge ruled that Oregon's public trust doctrine does not apply to the atmosphere, water, beaches and shorelines.
On August, 21 youths across the country sued the federal government. They claimed that approval of fossil fuel development has violated the fundamental right of citizens to be free from government actions that harm life, liberty and property.
The EPA did not comment on specifics of the lawsuit.  But it said in a statement that President Obama and the agency have been taking action to "give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve."
Aji Piper is a 15-year-old Seattle high school sophomore. He is a plaintiff in that case and the one in Washington state.
"The government isn't doing the best to assure that we have the best quality of life," he said. "It holds more urgency for us. Our future is at hand."
The Washington case has gone the farthest because a judge in King County Superior Court will be hearing arguments on the petition's merits, rather than on a procedural or jurisdictional issue, said Julia Olson. She is executive director for Our Children's Trust.

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How can kids make a stronger argument than adults?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • masonb-ver
    11/20/2015 - 01:34 p.m.

    Some kids can make better arguments then adults because some of these kids are more intelligent or have a better way of talking in an argument.

  • osmane-iov
    11/22/2015 - 08:14 p.m.

    By doing lots of research and probably more experiments that could prove the amount of carbon dioxide going into the earths atmosphere to prove their point and form groups of adults AND kids that are supporting them to go against the government.

  • janiyad-wes
    11/23/2015 - 09:14 a.m.

    Kids can make a stronger argument than adults by changing the climate and the government in different ways.

  • kyleighp-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

    Kids can make a stronger argument than adults because an adult can just deny everything,but children can't lie when their young.

  • mimir-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    Children can make a stronger argument than adults as relates to their remaining life on earth and how they wish the planet to be as they spend those years.

  • mattv-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    I think kids can take a larger stand than adults because when adults talk, it's kind of like a "Oh, they're protesting. Oh well." But when kids are involved, it gets the attention of whatever the issue is. Children's future is our main concern, so we listen to them.

  • elizabetht-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:21 p.m.

    I believe that kids can make better arguments than adults because they give reasons that it will be more of their futures. Mostly due to their being younger that the climate would change drastically even more by the time that they are adults. Then their descendants would have to deal with an Earth that is going to be worse than they had to deal with.

  • kolbyd-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:22 p.m.

    Kids can make a stronger argument than adults because the kids are going to have to live with the adults mistakes.

  • helenaw-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:22 p.m.

    Kids can make a stronger argument than adults because they will be the ones who have to deal with the huge impacts of global warming that are happening right now it is their futures that are at stake.

  • noahi-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:23 p.m.

    Because younger people are more concerned about the earth

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