A group of 21 young plaintiffs has filed a lawsuit against the US government against climate change — more specifically, for “creating a national energy system that causes climate change, is depriving them of their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property and [failing] to protect essential public trust resources.”
While their lawsuit, Juliana v. the United States, seems quixotic because the burden of proof will undoubtedly be set high, today the Supreme Court allowed the suit to proceed to the US District Court in Oregon.
I admire the plaintiffs’ audacity and only wish I had known earlier of this lawsuit, originally filed in 2015. Last year the Energy: Science, Society, and Communication Science course I taught with Götz Veser and Gordon Mitchell focused on the multigenerational impact of the energy choices that we are making as a society. Together with participants from the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Center and students from Carnegie Mellon and Pitt, our classroom comprised three generations. As we examined these issues through multigenerational conversations, dialogues about ethical wills, and speculative fiction, the youngest people in our classroom were the college students.
The beauty of this lawsuit is how it gives voice to even younger citizens — those who would be most affected by climate change. Indeed, the argument hinges upon their very youth.