A group of 21 teenagers argues the Trump administration's lack of action to prevent global warming violates their constitutional right to life.
Can American children sue the president over climate change?
A federal appeals court heard on Monday (Dec. 11) the case of 21 teenagers trying to do just that.
Attorneys for the group "Our Children's Trust" argued at the Ninth Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that Trump's lack of action to prevent global warming violates their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property.
"We argue that children, as a class, children born into this dangerous climate situation, are being discriminated against," said the group's chief plaintiff Julia Olson.
"When you're talking about life or death situations and climate destabilisation, that's discrimination against entire generations of people".
The Trump administration has asked the court to dismiss the case. A decision on whether a trial should be held is due in the coming weeks.
'Reclaiming our democracy'
Filed in 2015 in federal court in Oregon, the lawsuit claims government officials and oil industry chief executives knew about the causes and effects of climate change yet carried on with policies that perpetuated it.
The case was originally filed against then president Barack Obama and members of his administration, but the defendants were substituted with Donald Trump and his appointees after he took office this year.
A federal judge in Oregon ruled in 2016 that the case could move forward, setting a trial date for February 2018.
But the government asked the Ninth Circuit for an extraordinary order to block the trial from proceeding. It argues that allowing the litigation would distract the executive branch from performing its duties.
"According to the plaintiffs' complaint virtually every U.S. citizen has the right to sue virtually any government agency," said Eric Grant, a lawyer with the US Department of Justice.
Olson, the lawyer representing the teenagers, called on the judges to deny the government's request and "allow these young people to present their evidence in court."
Outside the court, youth plaintiff Xiuhtezcatl Martinez told a cheering crowd: "This lawsuit is a demonstration and an act of us, young people, reclaiming our democracy."
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