EUGENE, ORE. — Nearly two dozen kids — ages 8½ to 19 — appeared in federal court here on Wednesday morning. They wore nose rings and braces. Suits too big in the shoulders. Some doodled, others took copious notes. The backs of some heads barely peeked above the courtroom’s wooden benches.
But these plaintiffs, however young and small, united behind a massive cause that should inspire any of us old folk: They’re suing the U.S. government — and President Barack Obama — for failing to act rapidly to stop climate change.
It’s the future suing the present.
The climate kids versus the feds.
“We sat in this courtroom today, and we have filed this lawsuit, because the leaders we have elected to take care of our planet, and to take care of our country for our generation and those to follow, are failing to do their job,” said Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh, a 15-year-old from Colorado who is one of the 21 young plaintiffs. “My generation is going to be inheriting the crisis we see all around us today. We are standing up not only for the environment and the Earth and the atmosphere but for the rights we have to live in a healthy, just and sustainable world.”
“We are the generation that gets to rewrite history,” he added, speaking to a crowd of more than 100 outside the courthouse. “The pen is in our hands, and we are rewriting history today.”
The climate-kids suit, which got a pretrial hearing on Wednesday, March 9, before Judge Thomas Coffin, is part of a years-long campaign by a group called Our Children’s Trust.
The organization, with the support of former NASA climate scientist James Hansen and others, asserts Congress and the President have done far too little to stem the climate crisis. So they’ve taken to courts, filing petitions and complaints on behalf of young people in all 50 states, saying governments are failing to protect them and future generations from the harms of global warming.
This is the second U.S. Federal court case they’ve filed (the first failed), and they’re also working internationally. The government argued before Coffin on Wednesday that the suit should be dismissed.
It’s unclear when he will reach a decision.