To some, climate change is just a hoax; to 11-year-old Levi D., climate change is a reality.
“Climate change has impacted my life by causing more severe hurricanes that have damaged the barrier island and caused flooding, beach erosion, and other damage. We had flood waters up to our doorstep after a hurricane…We have had to evacuate our home two years in a row.”
Levi is a young activist and one of the 21 youth plaintiffs who filed a constitutional climate lawsuit against the United States government in 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. A fight for life, liberty, and freedom, Juliana v. the United States, is supported by the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, an Impact Fund grantee.
The plaintiffs are suing the United States government for its active participation in causing climate change, thereby violating their constitutional rights. They demand a science-based, national climate recovery plan that would end the reign of fossil fuels and lead to swift decarbonization.
Levi joined the lawsuit after experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand in his home state of Florida. “I saw the sea oats that I helped plant on the beach get washed away…I have also seen red tide and thousands of dead fish, red tide is worsened by rising sea and air temperatures.”
The young Americans’ lawsuit has faced many attempts from the United States government to have the case thrown out, and the trial has been delayed twice. But the courts continue to rule in favor of the youth and Levi is still determined despite the delay: “We have such a good argument in our case, it's why the government keeps trying to stop us.”
Levi believes in the lawsuit and its chances. “We have many scientists on our side, it’s really hard to fight against scientific evidence,” he said. “If climate change continues at the rate it’s going, I won't have a future or a home here on the barrier island that I grew up on. I want to be able to show this beautiful environment to my children when I'm an adult, but I might not be able to do that.”Levi spends his time giving speeches and doing interviews ever since becoming an advocate for climate action.
The lawsuit, using the judicial branch of government, is one of many different approaches being taken by environmental groups and youth activists to stop climate change. Levi expressed that, “The reason this is so important is because all of the little things we are doing aren't enough...recycling, taking short showers…we need to do something bigger that will reverse climate change and actually make a big difference.”
Levi explained that, “If the lawsuit wins, the government will have to put a science-based climate recovery plan into place. I think they will need to create more renewable green energy sources - this is good for the environment and there will be more jobs created.” Expert witnesses for the youth plaintiffs, including Nobel Laureate and economist Joseph Stiglitz, confirm that a plan of this nature would be good for the U.S. economically and environmentally.
Levi and the other Juliana plaintiffs are going to see the lawsuit through to trial so that their voices may be heard in court. Climate change is one of the most pressing problems that the world faces, and Levi and his co-plaintiffs are determined to get their government to stop contributing to it and start stopping it.
The next installment in the battle to bring the case to trial will be heard before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland on June 4th, 2019.
For more information on the #youthvgov lawsuit Juliana v. United States visit www.youthvgov.org.