A group of eight youth plaintiffs aged 10 to 20 has filed suit against Florida’s climate-denying governor, Rick Scott, aiming to “force a state extremely vulnerable to climate-driven sea rise to start work on a court-ordered, science-based Climate Recovery Plan,” the Miami Herald reports.
The youth are represented by Oregon-based Our Children’s Trust, which will also be in court against the Trump administration in October.
Scott is nothing if not a tempting target for a legal team devoted to climate action through the courts. “He notoriously declared ‘I’m not a scientist’ when asked his thoughts on humanity’s well-documented impact on the warming planet, banned the phrase in his administration (a charge he denies),” and supported Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, the Herald writes.
“Gov. Scott says he’s not a scientist,” said plaintiff Delaney Reynolds, an 18-year-old student at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who contacted Our Children’s Trust when she heard about its case against Trump. “Well, neither are most of the people that are forced to take action because the state is failing us.”
The Herald article traces the flood risk facing Florida, and particularly South Florida, due to sea level rise, noting that “those high tides aren’t going to get smaller. New research from [the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] shows Miami streets could flood every single day by 2070 under many climate models.”
In their lawsuit, “Reynolds and her lawyers accuse Scott and his administration of rolling back or failing to implement any legislation aimed at measuring or cutting back on carbon emissions, as well as ignoring the threat of rising seas on the state’s coasts, which provide the economic engine for the tourism-dependent state,” the paper reports.
“We want these stories in the courtroom, because once that happens the law is on our side,” said Our Children’s Trust senior attorney Andrea Rodgers. Scott’s office responded that the governor “is focused on real solutions to protect our environment—not political theatre or a lawsuit orchestrated by a group based in Eugene, Oregon.”
Scott’s own version of political theatre emerged earlier this past January when he met up with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at Tallahassee Airport, in a bid to exempt Florida from the Trump administration’s plan to open most of the U.S. outer continental shelf to offshore oil and gas drilling. The apparently spontaneous conversation was later revealed to have been carefully staged. Scott is widely expected to run for U.S. Senate this fall against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.