The grown-ups should know better. And soon, if a group of young activists have their way, the adults will be taken to task—in court. Twenty-one teen activists, including 15-year-old hip-hop singer and youth advocate Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez, are suing the U.S. government, all the way up to President Barack Obama’s office.

 “The Federal Government has known for decades that CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels was causing global warming and dangerous climate change,” said Xiuhtezcatl in a press release announcing the suit on August 12. “It also knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would destabilize our climate system, significantly harming my generation and generations to come. Despite knowing these dangers, Defendants did nothing to prevent this harm. In fact, my Government increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to levels it knew were unsafe.”

Xiuhtezcatl, who recently called on governments at the United Nations to address climate change as a human rights issue, is joined by a cadre of some of society’s youngest members. They range in age from 8 to 19.

They even include the unborn—represented by climate scientist James Hansen, who is both supporting them and appearing on the lawsuit on behalf of “future generations.” He also issued a proclamation in support of the suit, noting that his granddaughter Sophie is one of the plaintiffs.

“In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal, nature of U.S. climate and energy policy,” Hansen wrote in his declaration.

“It is now clear, as the relevant scientific community has established for some time, that from fossil fuel burning will further disrupt Earth’s climate system, and that, in turn, will impose profound and mounting risks of ecological, economic and social collapse,” he wrote. “In my view, our government’s actions and inactions that cause or contribute to those emissions violate the fundamental rights of Sophie, other Youth, and future generations. Those violated rights include the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to property, the right to equal protection under the law, the right to government protection of public trust resources, and the right to retain a fighting chance to preserve a habitable climate system.”


The suit is filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon. Hansen, who left NASA in 2013 to focus on educating the public about climate change, released a study at the end of July warning that the world’s ice is melting much faster than was previously thought. He predicted that ocean levels would rise much more drastically, and quickly, than current models project.

A similar lawsuit in Washington State gained some traction in June, when a judge allowed Zoe & Stella Frazier v. Washington Department of Ecology to proceed. It was brought in 2014 by eight teens and preteens ranging from age nine on up, reported Nation of Change. Their suit seeks to require the state “to develop a science-based plan for limiting carbon emissions in order to protect the climate for future generations,” Nation of Change reported.

Responses to " 21 Youth Activists Sue Obama Administration and U.S. Government Over Climate Change"

  1. That is great! I love it when our people make a stand, especially the youth.

  2. Carolynn says:

    Good for them! Nobody's listening to the voters. Maybe this will make a difference.

  3. Thia says:

    I'm so sorry that our Youth are having to work now, to repair what we couldn't fix, and the reality that our Elders also didn't stop: the sacrifice of our planet Earth and ALL her creatures, for the benefit of a very few. "Thank you" I say to the Youth, I bow to you. You- and all creation- is in my prayers. If I may help, I hope I can.

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