For Failing to Act on Climate Crisis, 13 Young Plaintiffs Just Sued the State of Washington
A group of 13 youths just filed a lawsuit against the State of Washington’s for breaching its constitutional and Public Trust obligations.
Why? Failure to act on climate change.
“I feel hopeful because of this lawsuit, like grass tips emerging from thawing snow.”In their suit (pdf), filed Friday in King County Superior Court, the plaintiffs, aged seven to 17, say the state, Gov. Jay Inslee, and several state agencies have created and propped up fossil fuel-based energy and transportation systems, thereby fueling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the climate crisis. In so doing, they have created “unconstitutional conditions”—depriving the young people of their rights to a healthful and pleasant environment, and their rights to life, liberty, and property.
The climate-fueling actions, the suit says, have put the young people “in a position of danger with deliberate indifference to their safety in a manner that shocks the conscience.”
The state’s current GHG reduction limits “are not consistent with what the scientific consensus says is needed to stabilize the climate system,” the suit states. Rather than take action to address climate change, the suit says the state and the agencies “have acted with shocking deliberate indifference and abdication of duty to address this crisis.” That’s despite fact that the defendants were aware of the impacts of the climate crisis “[s]ince at least the late 1980s, well before these plaintiffs were born.”
The youths were forced to bring the suit “because the fossil fuel-based energy and transportation system created, supported, and operated by the defendants, and the systematic, affirmative aggregate actions which make up and support that system, severely endangers plaintiffs and their ability to grow to adulthood safely and enjoy the rights, benefits, and privileges of past generations of Washingtonians due to the resulting climate change.”
The suit lists the specific dangers the climate crisis is causing the plaintiffs.
For 17-year-old James, for example, a member of the Quinault Indian Nation, his coastal village of Taholah has to be relocated because of sea level rise. “This critical loss of his place-based heritage, a heritage that dates back to time immemorial, is irreplaceable, and permanent,” the suit states. The traditional clamming activities he takes part in are also becoming limited because of climate change impacts including algal blooms, ocean acidification, and warming waters. Increasingly severe storms have also had an impact on his family, causing power outages. All these impacts, the suit says, are causing mental and emotional stress, and without meaningful action to address the climate crisis, the impacts are set to worsen.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT