A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Wednesday refused to dismiss a lawsuit against the U.S. government by 21 young people who say climate change deprives them of their constitutional rights.
The youngsters, between the ages of 10 and 21, sued the Obama administration in 2015. They have carried their case over to the Trump administration, which is seeking to have it tossed out.
The three-judge panel ruled Wednesday that the administration failed to meet what they call the “high bar” under federal law to have the case dismissed.
The group said U.S. administrations as far back as Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s have ignored the dangers caused by carbon emissions and pollution — including climate change — taking away from their constitutional right to life, liberty and the ability to pursue wealth.
U.S. attorneys argue the case could lead to long and complicated litigation and a “constitutional crisis” involving the federal courts and the White House.
Chief Judge Sidney Thomas disagreed. “Litigation burdens are part of our legal system,” he wrote. “Claims and remedies often are vastly narrowed as litigation proceeds. We have no reason to assume this case will be any different.”
The Justice Department has not yet responded to the appeals court’s decision.
An attorney representing the young people called it “very exciting. It will be the first time that climate science and the federal government’s role in creating the dangers will go on trial in a U.S. court.”