Before Trump took office, President Obama was the one named in the suit
In November of last year, the Obama administration submitted several motions to dismiss a case in which they were named as defendants for failing to act on the behalf of children to address global warming and securing a more habitable future.
The motions were rejected, and the case is now heading to trial. Only, in keeping with federal statutes, the sitting president, Donald Trump, has been substituted for Barack Obama as a defendant.
The twenty-one plaintiffs, children between the ages of 9 and 20, are arguing that the federal government is hindering their constitutionally granting the pursuit of life, liberty, and property by remaining inactive on climate change initiatives, despite possessing compelling data validating the threat and crisis.
Judge Ann Aiken said in a decision that the plaintiffs seek to compel the federal government to “cease their permitting, authorizing, and subsidizing of fossil fuels and, instead, move to swiftly phase out CO2 emissions.”
On March 7, the Trump administration filed two motions. The first is a rarely seen appeal of Aiken’s pretrial ruling and the second is a request that trial preparation be postponed until the first matter concludes. Unsurprisingly, three oil industry groups, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute, all joined the fray by claiming that the suit poses a clear threat to their businesses, allowing them to participate in the government’s defense.
Their requests were granted.
The plaintiffs are not seeking financial damages (which would have been unlikely, since the damages resulting from the inaction have not yet been legally incurred), but, rather, they hope to compel federal agencies to act on the information they have on hand, instituting regulation and policy to address climate change, something the Trump administration seems in no hurry to do.
The lawsuit also seeks to prohibit the Trump administration from removing or destroying data pertaining to climate change, as was reported in the early weeks of the Trump presidency. Plaintiff’s lead counsel Julia Olsen said in a statement, “Destroying evidence is illegal, and we just put these new U.S. defendants and the industry defendants on notice that they are barred from doing so.”
In perhaps the most intriguing twist thus far, the Obama administration filed an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. Just one week before Trump’s inauguration, the Obama administration’s filing claimed that the government had longstanding awareness and knowledge of the causes and dangers of climate change and the health risks associated with carbon dioxide emissions.
So now, we wait to see if these children will get their day in court and force the Trump administration to answer their accusations.