Look out, Uncle Sam, these 21 kids from across the country are suing you for screwing up the climate.

A group of kids—mostly from Oregon, but also from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, and Washington—filed suit today in U.S. District Court in Eugene, claiming that the federal government has failed to act to prevent catastrophic climate change and is thereby infringing upon their rights—and the rights of future generations—of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today also happens to be International Youth Day.

Among the listed defendants are the President; the Office of the President; the Departments of Energy, Interior, Transportation, Agriculture, Commerce, State, and Defense; and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a news release.

The kids don’t want money. Instead they’re trying to get a court order declaring that the federal government has violated, and continues to violate, the “the fundamental consitutional rights of youth and future generations to life, liberty, property, and public trust resources by causing dangerous CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.”



"A key part of this is the defendants' conscious decision to continue to make the climate system worse to the point where the world will be uninhabitable for future generations," says Philip Gregory, an attorney representing the kids. "It's the court's job to determine whether these youth plaintiffs have a constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment to have a climate system in which they can exist."

Gregory says the Obama administration's Climate Action Plan is woefully inadequate and will not solve the problem in time. Climate scientist James Hansen, who joins the list of plaintiffs as a "guardian for future generations and for his granddaughter," agrees.

"Our President proposes ineffectual actions, demonstrably short of what is needed, and persists in approving fossil fuel projects that will slam shut the narrowing window of opportunity to ensure a hospitable climate system," Hansen says.

Gregory says the kids are particularly concerned about the government's 2011 approval of a proposed liquefied natural gas facility from the Jordan Cove terminal in Coos Bay, saying that continuing to extract, produce, and consume fossil fuels is an unconstitutional violation of their Fifth Amendment rights.

“By 2020, the Jordan Cove Energy Project will be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the whole state of Oregon,” says 18-year-old Alex Loznak, one of the eleven Oregon youth plaintiffs. “Science tells us we must sharply cut back on CO2 emissions, but my Federal Government has given the green light to massive LNG exports from this terminal. If constructed, the terminal would process one billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, locking us into dependence on fossil fuels at a time when we should be transitioning toward a renewable energy economy. My family has owned a farm near the proposed pipeline route for almost 150 years, and I’m worried about the impacts that increased drought and wildfire will have on the farm unless we act now on climate change.”

Gregory expects a judge to be assigned to the case today and expects the first hearing to happen in November or December.