The Supreme Court has shot down the Trump administration’s effort to halt a climate change lawsuit launched by a group of young people that accuses the federal government of exacerbating global warming by promoting fossil fuels — and threatening their futures.
“The application for stay ... is denied,” the court ruled Monday.
The ruling means the three-year-old Oregon case filed by 21 teenagers and younger children can proceed to a U.S. District Court trial scheduled for late October.
The sweeping suit argues that government policies have worsened global warming in violation of the young people’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property and that they threaten future generations. The lawsuit calls on the federal government to devise a plan to phase out carbon emissions and stabilize the Earth’s climate.
The justices denied the administration’s request because it was “premature.”
The ruling also cautioned that the “breadth” of the lawsuit’s claims was “striking” and the question of whether they can be decided by a court “presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion.” The justices said the trial judge should take that into account in considering whether to make a “prompt ruling” on other government efforts to terminate the suit.
Julia Olsen, executive director and chief legal counsel of the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, which helped file the suit on behalf of the young people, hailed the ruling.
“This decision should give young people courage and hope that their third branch of government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, has given them the greenlight to go to trial in this critical case on their inalienable rights,” she said in a statement.
“We look forward to presenting the scientific evidence of the harms and dangers these children face as a result of the actions their government has taken to cause the climate crisis.”
The Trump administration had criticized the trial judge for letting the case go forward, arguing that she had endorsed “a never-before-recognized fundamental right to a particular climate system that lacks any support in the Constitution, this court’s precedents, or this nation’s history and tradition,” Bloomberg reported.
The Obama administration also tried to have the case thrown out.
Attorneys for the young people argued that the administration was trying to sidestep a fair hearing of the issues. They argued that harms to the “climate system threaten the very foundation of life, including the personal security, liberties, and property” of the young people who filed the action.