Juliana V. United States: The Latest on the Fight against Climate Change

Recently in Portland, a case was presented regarding the legal right for young people to be protected from climate change. Read about Juliana v. United States!

Juliana V. United States Rally. Photo by Eric Montgomery

In , , federal judges listened to arguments earlier this week in an hour-long hearing regarding whether or not there is a legal right for young people to have protection against  

There was push on both sides of the argument from the judges, who are from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  

The lawsuit is known as v. United States. A lead plaintiff is , and she could be seen greeting supporters outside of the courthouse on Tuesday.  

The case was supposed to get started last fall, however, the Trump administration was granted a pretrial appeal. The decision made could have huge implications regarding climate action being pursued in courts throughout the United States.  

The Fight to Protect Children Today and Tomorrow 

The plaintiffs are demanding the government do its part to protect not only today’s children, but future generations as well against the negative impacts of climate change. The plaintiffs filed a brief stating they are facing the risk of deprivation of their rights, due to federal government acts which harm the climate system.  

It is the desire of the federal government to see the case be thrown out prior to going to trial, but the argument is that the young people should have the opportunity to present their case against anyone who might harm them through governance. Moreover, the plaintiffs have requested that the government, while the case is pending, do its part to stop fossil fuel extraction projects.  

According to lawyers representing the Trump administration, the case is misguided and there actually is not a constitutional right to have a stable climate system. They don’t believe that a single district court in Oregon should be in charge of controlling environmental and policy in the United States.  

The judges on the panel held in Portland included  of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Mary H. Murguia of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appealsand Josephine L. Staton of District Court for the Central District of California. They were each appointed under President Barack Obama.  

There was question over whether a lawsuit would be able to fix the issue at hand, assuming climate change is a problem caused by the failure of the government to act.    

A Climate Change Case: Is it Best Handled by the Courts? 

It should be noted that since this was originally filed back in 2015, the Obama administration made an effort to stop the case, due to the argument that the issues being presented would be better suited for the executive and legislative branches rather than the courts. The Obama administration did take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and signed the Paris climate agreement, whereas the Trump administration has announced a plan to exit the Paris deal and has looked to challenge science demonstrating that global warming is real, presenting an immediate necessity for action to take place.  

According to Philip H. Knight professor of law at the University of Oregon, , the Trump administration, while other nations are hitting the breaks, is destructively “accelerating toward the climate cliff through its frenzied fossil fuel policy.”  

One of the plaintiffs, , discussed how some of the young people have spent a large portion of their lives involved in this case, which started with 21 young people suing the United States government through “Our Children’s Trust.”  

Vic Barrett, for instance, is now 21 years old, attending the University of Wisconsin. He has grown, as has the sense of urgency regarding the importance of addressing climate change. Barrett discussed how the youth climate movement is no longer just about the original 21 young people across America – it’s about highlighting young people all over America and their efforts to hold the government responsible for placing the future in danger.  

Attorneys for the 21 young people are optimistic this case will go to trial. Now, it’s up to the judges to decide whether or not the case will proceed forward or be thrown out. It is certainly worth following, for anyone concerned about climate change, to say the least!  




Photo Source: 

Eric Montgomery 



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