October 7, 2020 | News | No Comments
A cadre of young climate activists packed a Seattle, Washington courtroom on Tuesday to hear oral arguments in a case that they say could change the course of their futures.
The trial is over the refusal by the Department of Ecology (DOE), which oversees state environmental laws, to set a cap on carbon emissions. And eight young teens who showed up for its opening day were more than just spectators—they were plaintiffs.
“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. “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.”
Zoe Foster, 12, added, “Kids understand the threats climate change will have on our future. I’m not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don’t have time to waste. I’m petitioning my government to take real action on climate, and I won’t stop until change is made.”
In a case brought by the youth-focused nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, based in Oregon, the petitioners argue that they presented the DOE with current scientific data on climate change and petitioned the agency to consider statewide emissions reductions to 350 parts per million (ppm) by the end of the century to help Washington do its part in curbing climate change. But the DOE denied their requests, even after an initial ruling in May that ordered the agency to reconsider the petition.
“I’m not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing.”
—Zoe Foster, 12
Now the kids are back in court. Any further delay on the case risks their right to a livable future, they said Tuesday.
And according to some legal experts, the decision could set a precedent for similar cases taking off around the country.
“Under the law, the people of this state, including the kids who have brought this case, have a fundamental right to a healthy environment,” said Andrea Rodgers, an attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center who is representing the plaintiffs. “Faced with the increasing harms posed by climate destabilization and ocean acidification, the young people brought this lawsuit to vindicate this right on behalf of themselves and future generations.”
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