Supreme Court Decides on Youth Climate-Change Suit

Justices say they won't stop the lawsuit
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2018 5:40 PM CDT
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Willamette University student Arabella Wood, right, gathers with others at a rally in Eugene, Ore., Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, to support a high-profile climate change lawsuit brought by 21 young people against the federal government.   (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court has refused to block a lawsuit by young Americans seeking to combat climate change, the Washington Post reports. With a trial date approaching in Oregon, the Trump administration asked the high court to intervene—but justices issued a three-page order Friday saying the government could try seeking relief with the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which has already turned them down. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch backed Trump's case, while other votes weren't revealed. "We've been confident throughout this case that we would get to trial, and I believe we will get to trial," says Julia Olson, attorney for the 21 young people who filed suit in 2015. "We have overcome everything the government has thrown at us. It is not luck."

Plaintiffs say the failure to address climate change is depriving them of their right to life, liberty, and property, and leaving essential resources unprotected, per CNN. A Trump administration legal brief calls the suit an "invasion of the separation of powers" and questions any "fundamental right" to "a climate system capable of sustaining human life." But with the Supreme Court punting on the issue—at least for now—plaintiffs for Juliana v. United States will likely ask that the case proceed in a federal district court in Eugene, Oregon. Similar lawsuits have failed worldwide, but Nature notes that one succeeded in the Netherlands, forcing the Dutch government to significantly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020. (An ocean study has horrific implications for the climate change fight.)

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