Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Is This 15-Year-Old Suing Obama?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Is This 15-Year-Old Suing Obama?

Article excerpt

"Talk is cheap," says Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh, in response to President Barack Obama's rousing speech at the opening day of the United Nations summit on climate change Monday.

Xiuhtezcatl, barely old enough to drive in his home state of Colorado, is one of 21 young activists ages 8 through 19 in a lawsuit against the Obama administration that says it has not done enough to combat climate change.

Teaming up with James Hansen, the climate scientist whose 1988 congressional testimony helped make "global warming" a household term, the young plaintiffs are backed by a team of legal experts at Our Children's Trust. The nonprofit organization has initiated climate-related lawsuits in all 50 states. On Tuesday, for instance, a North Carolina judge struck down on 13-year-old Hallie Turner's petition for stricter emission standards.

This particular case, so far, is the group's most prominent.

In early November, three of the biggest trade groups from the fossil fuel industry requested to join the defendant's bench with Mr. Obama, deeming the lawsuit "a direct threat" to their line of work.

To the activists, this was an auspicious sign.

"It's good news for us that they're doing this. They see this as a legitimate case," Julia Olson, the lead attorney from Our Children's Trust, told Slate last week.

But whether the kids have legal standing is another question. Analysts say it proposes a constitutional challenge regarding intergenerational equity, posing the questions, does the US government have an obligation to protect the interests of future Americans by controlling current resources, and does the Constitution grant the government this legal right?

Without a Supreme Court ruling, which experts say is unlikely, the answers remain hazy. But for Xiuhtezcatl, the necessity for action is as clear as day.

"The reason we are fighting for this is because of the world we want to grow up in, and the world we want our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to grow up in," he tells CNN's John Sutter. …

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