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 to push action on climate change.
They say their generation will bear the brunt of global warming.  And, that government at every level has an obligation 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 the ages of 10 and 15 petitioned Washington state last year 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, which 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, such as establishing 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, the professor.
"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, 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 alleged 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 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, 15, a Seattle high school sophomore, 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, 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

  • evakathrynj.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 09:22 a.m.

    Kids can make a stronger argument than adults because it is them that have to live in the future that they are arguing about right then. It impacts the kids. Also, I believe that kids have more energy and commitment in what they believe in. It may just be that they are younger,but it could also be because they have more initiative to make their future as great as it can possibly be.

  • landryb.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 09:24 a.m.

    By working hard and helping out they would probably get closer to acheiving their goal.
    I liked how it showed the ages, where they were from, and what school.

  • delainnab.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 09:26 a.m.

    Kids will eventually live in the world that will later on change because of the adult's and government's choices. Most children that want to save the world have taken matters into their own hands to make better decisions for future generations.

  • mikaylaz.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 09:26 a.m.

    Kids can make a stronger argument than adults because it will soon be their problem and they will have to deal with it.They are trying to help save the planet for their generation and many more.

  • calebt.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 09:28 a.m.

    This story is very informative and might even change some peoples minds about this topic in the end.

  • gagec.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 09:54 a.m.

    We need to make a change in the climate.

  • leonac.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 11:14 a.m.

    Can the minors sue or do they have to be 18?

  • trinityt.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 11:14 a.m.

    I liked this article because at a young age, kids are taking a stand in what they believe in.

  • spencerj.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 11:21 a.m.

    Some kids think big and some parents are about what is possible.When a kid has the ability to big they go huge.They have courage to make it happen.Parents don't want to go through trouble sometimes.

  • lukeh-orv
    11/30/2015 - 01:26 p.m.

    Kids can make a stronger argument on climate change than adults because they are the generation that will have to deal with it in years to come. "It holds more urgency for us. Our future is at hand." Kids explain why they want to take control of the situation because it will affect them later. I think this is interesting because I am this generation and I didn't know some kids are so concerned for what is to come with climate change.

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