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Kids Sue Over Climate Change And A Judge In Wash. State Is Listening

Bellamy Pailthorp
Kids filled the benches of King County Superior Court before Judge Hollis R. Hill to hear oral arguments about climate change, on November 3rd, 2015.

Kids packed a courtroom in Seattle on Tuesday to hear oral arguments in a case about their future. Eight young teenagers are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology. They want to force action on climate change.

“It just feels like there’s not enough people who care about, like, animals and other things that can’t talk for themselves – babies who haven’t been born yet, people from the future, basically,” said 13-year-old Lara Fain.

She’s one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which says the State Department of Ecology isn’t doing enough to limit the carbon pollution that causes global warming. 15-year-old Aji Piper agrees.

“It is my future,” he said. “You know, there’s these things that you just – you lose them and then it’s really hard to get them back.”

Their arguments are part of the lawsuit filed in Washington, one of dozens of suits filed and actions taken in every state and against the federal government, by a non-profit called Our Children’s Trust.

Julia Olsen is the group’s Executive Director. She says Washington state is obligated by its constitution to protect shared resources such as clean air. They are asking the court to take action to enforce that law.

“That these young people have the right to a healthful environment. And … how you protect that right depends on the science and what scientists are telling us is happening to our climate system,” Olsen said.

Specifically, she says that means the state’s policy needs to return the level of carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million by the end of this century.

King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill heard oral arguments in the case, on its merits. Our Children’s Trust says that is more than they have achieved in many states so far.

Kay Shirey, the state attorney general representing the Department of Ecology says the agency recognizes that climate change is one of the most important issues of the day, “and they are working very hard to adopt a rule to address climate change, as required by Governor Inslee’s directive,” Shirey said.

But she said the court is not where this policy should be decided.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to