In a fight for their future, 14 Hawaii youth file climate lawsuit against state, DOT

This youth movement comes as their generation deals with more severe impacts of climate change.
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 2:15 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 1, 2022 at 4:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of Hawaii’s youth filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming the Transportation Department and Gov. David Ige violated their constitutional rights by not taking swift climate change action.

The lawsuit was filed by 14 keiki from across Hawaii, who range between the ages of 9 to 18 years old.

The youth plaintiffs claim the DOT’s operation of the state’s transportation system is causing significant harm to their communities and undermining their ability to “live healthful lives in Hawaii now and into the future.”

They said under the current state policy, transportation pollution will increase to an alarming 9.15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“I want the defendants to understand that climate change is not an impending doom, but a preventable crisis that is currently harming Hawaii’s youth — a crisis that the courts can help solve,” said one of the youth plaintiffs in a press release.

The plaintiffs said they are going to court to ensure the DOT follows through on the legal mandate set by the state Legislature to decarbonize Hawaii’s economy and achieve a zero emissions economy by 2045.

This youth movement comes as their generation deals with more severe impacts of climate change compared to their parents and grandparents’ generation.

Studies show that children born in 2020 are expected to face a two- to seven-fold increase in extreme climate events such as heat waves, wildfires, crop failures, droughts and floods.

“Climate change really impacted my life because I lost my house in a flood. Luckily, I was not in my house at the time because I would probably have lost my life,” said youth plaintiff Kaliko T.

“Climate change is drastically changing lives around the world and we need our governments to take it and us seriously.”

The lawsuit is just one of several youth-led constitutional climate lawsuits brought by the nonprofit law firm Our Children’s Trust and fellow public interest firms like Earthjustice.

The state and Transportation Department have not yet provided a response to the lawsuit.

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