Florida Teens Sue Governor, State Departments Over Climate Change

(CN) – A group of Florida teenagers sued the governor, the state and four of its agencies Monday to compel them to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to stabilize the climate system and protect natural resources.

In a 62-page complaint filed in Leon County Circuit Court, the eight plaintiffs claim the governor and state departments of agriculture and environmental protection promote fossil fuel-based policies that fail to “ensure that plaintiffs will grow to adulthood safely.”

The teenagers contend the defendants’ “unconstitutional” contributions to climate change “have caused widespread harm to the plaintiffs and the natural resources in Florida.”

As a result, “plaintiffs are living under climatic conditions that create an unreasonable risk of harm.”

The plaintiffs contend the defendants, which also include the Florida Board of Trustees of Internal Improvement Trust Fund and the Public Service Commission, have only exacerbated, rather than addressed, the problem.

In a written statement responding to the lawsuit, Governor Rick Scott said he has signed ” one of the largest environmental protection budgets in Florida’s history last month – investing $4 billion into Florida’s environment.”

The statement went on to say that Scott “is focused on real solutions to protect our environment – not political theater or a lawsuit orchestrated by a group based in Eugene, Oregon.”

The complaint focuses on what the plaintiffs say are the adverse effects of carbon dioxide concentrations, “dangerous” levels of greenhouse gas pollution and the impact to Florida’s “vital” natural resources.

It goes on to allege carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as the causes of increasing temperatures, rising seas and storm-surge flooding, an increase in droughts and violent storms as well as the erosion of beach and farmland, the degradation of freshwater, resource and species extinctions and an increase in diseases such as Zika.

The plaintiffs say they filed the lawsuit to hold the public officials responsible for “responding to the threat of climate change.”

And they all claim to have been personally impacted by climate change, particular during Hurricane Irma last year, when they experienced significant flooding, power outages, forced evacuations, school closures, lack of access to clean and safe drinking water, fish die-offs, and sewage infesting waters in which they would normally swim.

One of the plaintiffs grew up on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Big Cypress Indian Reservation where she says she has witnessed native plants struggling to survive and a decrease in animals such as frogs, toads and butterflies.

The plaintiffs also reference the adverse impact of climate change on Florida’s reefs, barrier islands, wetlands, forests, grasslands and crops including citrus.

Representatives of the agency and departmental defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.

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