PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Students and the public got an up-close view of the Oregon Supreme Court Wednesday as they heard arguments in the climate change case at David Douglas High School.
The case has been working its way through the Oregon Supreme Court for years after it started in the Lane County Circuit Court in 2011.
The group of more than 20 young activists is fighting to protect Oregon’s national resources from climate change. They’re asking the state’s highest court to review their case and find under Oregon law that the state has a duty to protect the air, waterways and wildlife from climate change.
The plaintiffs said whatever Oregon’s Supreme Court decides will have long-lasting, widespread impact on current and future generations of Oregonians and their shared health, prosperity and safety.
But the state argues that while it is committed to tackling climate change, there is a separation of power issue. Action, they said, must come from legislative and executive branches.
“The way the state does more to combat climate change is by passing laws that impose stricter greenhouse gas, passing laws that regulate industries and the executive follows those laws,” said Carson Whitehead, the state’s lawyer.
Attorney Courtney Johnson said the young Oregonians allege the state government isn’t meeting their public trust obligations.
“The parties disagree about whether the state has a legal duty to do something about it and whether the courts have a role in holding the state accountable for protecting the climate,” Johnson said. “Climate change is a serious threat and is substancially impairing already recognized trust resources.”
David Douglas students Rose Gbaanador and Daryna Bosyuk agreed it was worthwhile to see the process up close.
Bosyuk, a sophomore said, “It was a great opportunity to see how the proceedings go what questions are asked.”
“I think it is really inspiring especially for young people who want to voice our opinions it gives them a reason to share what is important,” said Gbaabador, a junior.
The next step is for the Oregon Supreme Court to make a decision but there’s no timeline for when that will happen.