NEW YORK, Feb 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A group of
American students, one as young as nine, is suing President
Donald Trump over the U.S. government's climate-change policy
that they claim puts their future in jeopardy, their attorney
said on Friday.
Trump has expressed doubts about the science behind climate
change and has vowed to revive the oil, gas and coal industries.
His policies have his administration on a collision course
with an overwhelming majority of scientists who believe that
human consumption of fossil fuels is warming the planet and
triggering sea level rise and more frequent powerful storms.
The 21 students added Trump as a party to their two-year-old
case in order for litigation to continue under the new
administration, said lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Julia
Olson. Trump replaces former President Barack Obama as a named
party in the case against the U.S. federal government.
While the substitution may be procedural, the young people
said they had been spurred on by Trump's expressions of doubt
about the science behind climate change.
"I am hopeful that our case will reverse or prevent all
damage our current president may inflict," Aji Piper, 16, from
Seattle, one of those filing the suit, said in a statement.
The lawsuit, filed in an Oregon federal court in 2015,
alleges that the government's response to climate change has
been slow and violates the constitutional rights of the young
plaintiffs - who range in age from nine to 20.
The suit claims the United States and various executive
agencies have known for more than 50 years that carbon dioxide
from burning fossil fuels was destabilizing the climate system
and significantly endangering them.
"The U.S. is most responsible for climate change so it's
really the most important case in the world right now on the
issue," Olson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
A defense attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice said
by email that he was not authorized to comment on the case.
Trump, a Republican who took power on Jan. 20, has dismissed
global warming as a hoax created by China.
His nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt,
who has expressed doubt about climate change science, to head
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has further alarmed
The naming of Trump in the case sent a strong a political
message, said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for
Climate Change Law at Columbia University in New York City.
"It has the symbolic effect of targeting the individual who
has lately become the biggest obstacle to the U.S.'s action
fighting climate change," he said.
The trial could begin later this year, Olson said.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ros
Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)