In the first eleven days of his presidency, Donald Trump was named in an astounding forty-two federal lawsuits. Now he has yet another suit to add to the pile: a group of children and young adults, along with renowned climate scientist Dr. James E. Hansen, are suing him over the devastating effects that climate change will have on their futures.
The lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, argues that the federal government has endangered the ‘public trust’ – “an old legal doctrine that holds that it is the government’s responsibility to preserve certain natural resources for public use.”
The lawsuit argues that the public trust doesn’t just cover land and waters, it also applies to the atmosphere, and the government has forfeited the integrity of the atmosphere for future generations through policies that encourage carbon pollution.
The plaintiffs just updated the filing to add Trump’s name. Although the case was originally brought in 2015, during the Obama Administration, the case has been strengthened by the Trump Administration’s open climate change denial and hostility towards sane environmental policies.
20-year-old plaintiff Jacob Lebel explains, “Our case is a direct constitutional challenge to a Trump administration at war with the reality of climate change and bent on pushing a deadly fossil fuel agenda at the expense of its citizens’ safety and human rights. Climate science, not alternative facts, will determine the outcome of our court trial and that gives me hope for my children’s generation and the future of this country.”
An organization devoted to protecting the environment and fighting climate change for future generations, Our Children’s Trust, is leading the legal efforts for the landmark case. The federal government and fossil fuel industry advocates tried to have the case dismissed but the group won a huge victory in November 2016 when a federal judge ruled that the case must go forward. The Trump Administration is trying to push its court date back as far as 2019 but we can be sure that the plaintiffs will fight against that cop-out.
This lawsuit has the potential to permanently shape U.S. climate change policy for the better. The government has been beholden to corporations and the fossil fuel industry lobbies for far too long, and it has been at the expense of our children. Donald Trump, we will see you in court.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.