TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Students across the world have increasingly made their frustrations over climate change loud and clear, but a group of Florida students is taking its activism to the courtroom, suing the governor and state agencies.
Joined by their attorney, the students laid out their case to law students at Florida State University on Wednesday.
One of the key parts of their case is that the students aren’t suing based on the inaction of the state, instead, they list specific things the state has done to make climate change worse.
“Florida generates more electricity from petroleum than any other state in the nation, second-highest amount of CO2 emissions from electricity in the nation. These are very, very big numbers,” said Andrea Rodgers, an attorney with Our Children’s Trust.
The students are diverse, ranging from as young as 12 to college-aged. The one thing they share is the belief the state’s energy policy has put their right to life, liberty and property at risk.
Plaintiff Delaney Reynolds, 19, said the suit is about preserving the future.
“Our reality is that these rising temperatures and resulting sea level rise are placing much of the region at the real risk of disappearing,” Reynolds said.
Plaintiff Valholly Frank, a 16-year-old member of the Seminole Tribe, said sea level rise will eventually threaten to destroy the tribe's lands in the Everglades.
“And you can’t really easily move an entire community. If we were displaced we would lose everything we know. We’d lose our identity,” Frank said.
Plaintiffs are asking the courts to declare the state’s energy policy unconstitutional and establish a maximum level of carbon emissions for the state. If successful, it would be up to lawmakers to figure out how to bring the state into compliance.
The governor and state agencies involved in the case have asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
Both sides are expected to make their arguments before a judge in the coming months.