Today Jayden is one of 21 young Americans, ages 11 to 22, who are suing the federal government to demand that it take action to stop global warming. The plaintiffs claim that the government’s actions—and inaction—in the face of climate change violate their “fundamental constitutional rights to freedom from deprivation of life, liberty, and property.”
Their age is central to their argument: For older people, the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change are a problem, but ultimately an abstract one since they may not be around to experience them. Today’s children, however, will be dealing with environmental disaster within their lifetimes; the youngest of the plaintiffs, Levi Draheim, will be just 33 in 2040, the year by which a United Nations scientific panel expects some of the biggest climate-related crises to begin, including widespread coastal flooding and food shortages.
But it’s still unclear if and when the plaintiffs will get their day in court. The Trump administration has repeatedly requested stays of proceedings—which halt the legal process—and no one can be sure how long the delays will last or what the outcome will be.
If the case, Juliana v. United States, does move forward, it could be a game changer, determining whether the judicial branch should play a role in dealing with global warming, and whether U.S. citizens have a constitutional right to a safe, stable climate.