A group of teenagers has convinced a King County superior court judge to order the Washington State Department of Ecology to consider statewide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
They say they're shocked but also excited.
Judge Hollis Hill issued the ruling last week. It will require ECY to reconsider the petition filed by eight teens last year. The petition asked for officials to develop policy-limiting carbon dioxide emissions based on best available science.
Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center and an attorney for the teen petitioners called the decision a "landmark ruling."
"The effect of this decision is that for the first time in the United States, a court of law has ordered a state agency to consider the most current and best available climate science when deciding to regulate carbon dioxide emissions," she said. "The court directed Ecology to apply the agency's own findings that climate change presents an imminent threat to Washington and demands immediate action. The ball is now in Ecology's court to do the right thing and protect our children and future generations."
Judge Hill ruled that climate change is a reality and negatively affecting Washington's environment.
The youth petitioners participated in the suit because they see themselves as the long-term victims of any failure to act today.
The referred to climate models that require a 4% yearly reduction in CO2 in order to stave off permanent damage.
"Kids understand the threats climate change will have on our future," said 13-year-old petitioner Zoe Foster. "I'm not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don't have time to waste. I'm pushing my government to take real action on climate, and I won't stop until change is made."
The ruling may give Gov. Jay Inslee an opportunity to take action as well after failing to pass his climate package through the state legislature.
"And they're too young to vote," Rodgers said. "They can't take their political views and express them at the ballot box."
The Department of Ecology has two weeks to respond to the decision. They sent KING 5 the following statement:
"Reducing greenhouse gas pollution is vital to our future and we want people engaged on the issue. As directed by the court,we are reviewing the petition denial and expect to make a decision by July 8."
The teens hope it sends a message to other youth paying attention.
"I want them to know they can make a difference," Gabe Mandell said. "We can change the world."