Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Florida 10-year-old is one of 21 kids suing federal government over climate change

At age 10, Levi Draheim hates math and loves reading Harry Potter books. He plays the violin but dislikes practicing. What he really enjoys is paddling a kayak or going swimming. It helps that he lives just a five-minute walk from the beach in the town of Indialantic on Florida’s east coast.

"I’m the kind of kid who likes to be outside," he said.

He’s also one of 21 children across America who are suing the federal government for its failure to combat climate change.

Levi, an only child who is homeschooled by his mom, is the youngest plaintiff involved in the case known as Juliana vs. the United States. He’s also the only one from Florida, the state scientists say is most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The suit, filed in federal court in Oregon in 2015 with the help of a group called Our Children’s Trust, asserts that by promoting the use of fossil fuels and failing to do enough to stop climate change, government has violated the younger generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. It also accuses the government of shirking its responsibility to protect essential public resources.

When the suit was first filed, the case seemed at best quixotic, and at worst a cynical ploy to use cute kids for a political end.

But the federal court system took their case seriously. A judge has set it for trial in February.

Last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco announced it would hear oral arguments on Dec. 11 on the Trump administration’s objections to proceeding to trial.

A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on the case. But in court filings, the government contends that the suit is "an action that seeks wholesale changes in federal government policy based on utterly unprecedented legal theories." It also complains that the plaintiffs’ request for documents from the government seeks memos going back all the way to the days of President Lyndon Johnson.

Fossil fuel companies, which had at first sought to intervene in the suit, withdrew six months ago when it became clear it was moving forward.

Whether they win or lose the suit, "these kids are forcing us to think about our legacy," said Michael P. Vandenbergh, a former Environmental Protection Agency chief of staff who is now the director of the Climate Change Research Network. "Climate change will cause harms for tens or even hundreds of generations, and they are calling us to account even if the current political dialogue has trouble focusing beyond the next week or year."

For Levi, it’s an opportunity to do something about a big problem rather than just talk about it. He became a plaintiff in the suit when he was 8, and he has flown to Oregon with his family a couple of times for the preliminary court proceedings.

"I think about it a lot," he said. "Like, every day I’m thinking, ‘Is this going to go through, or is it going to be stopped?’?"

When Hurricane Irma hit, he said, he saw firsthand what increased storm surges from rising seas can do. Three feet of water flooded his street. Instead of walking to the beach, he could paddle to it.

A study released earlier this year by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics found that more and more people are filing climate change-related lawsuits around the globe. The number of lawsuits involving climate change has tripled since 2014, with the United States leading the way. Researchers identified 654 U.S. lawsuits — three times more than the rest of the world combined

Some suits filed in other countries have yielded concrete results. For instance, in 2015 a Pakistani lawyer’s case against his government resulted in Pakistan designating action points within several ministries and creating a government commission to monitor progress.

Julia Olson founded Our Children’s Trust in 2010 just to help children around the nation pursue lawsuits like this one against states and federal agencies, she said.

"What we wanted were enforceable orders" from a court, she said. The cases have also yielded documents showing that the government has known for at least 50 years that burning fossil fuels altered the climate, yet the government has continued subsidizing the industry, she said.

"The federal government controls the energy system, and it picks the winners and the losers," Olson said.

Levi said climate change is an issue he has heard his mom, Leigh-Ann Draheim, discussing with her boyfriend, photographer James Kilby, and so he read up on it.

Kilby is active with the environmental group Surfrider, said Draheim, who runs a custom kids clothing and toys sewing business. As a result, she said, "as a family we do things like beach cleanups (and) sea oat plantings."

They attend the Unitarian Universalist Church. The pastor there passed along to Draheim the information that Our Children’s Trust was looking for a child from Florida to join in the suit.

"Levi was the obvious choice," she said. "He’s always been interested in environmental things."

The decision was all his, according to his mother and grandfather, John Draheim.

"But we’re greatly encouraging him and very proud of him," said Levi’s grandfather. "He’s a pretty amazing little kid, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my grandson."

While he has been waiting for the case to reach its conclusion, Levi has been interviewed by the BBC and other media outlets, as well as taken part in the People’s Climate March in April. He has also become friends with the other 20 kids, who are scattered from Louisiana to Hawaii. He said they frequently chat about the case over the Internet.

"It’s nice knowing that there’s other kids like me in the world," he said.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Craig Pittman at [email protected] Follow @craigtimes.

Comments
FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

A Clearwater man who authorities said sideswiped a car while driving more than 100 miles per hour the wrong way on U.S. 41 was arrested Friday. Wendel Jamel James, 35, is charged with DUI with property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
‘Notorious RBG’ wanted to be a singer. Now, a CD celebrates her life.

‘Notorious RBG’ wanted to be a singer. Now, a CD celebrates her life.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said, in interviews, that she would have loved to have been an opera singer.She has certainly become a fixture at many opera houses around the country: She is often spotted in the audience; she sometimes presides...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Oldsmar cheer coach faces new sexual battery charges

Oldsmar cheer coach faces new sexual battery charges

An Oldsmar cheerleading coach charged this week with sending explicit images to a minor now faces additional sexual battery charges.Victor Martin Valenty, 28, is accused of having "inappropriate sexual activity" with a 15-year-old at his home for mor...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Migrants denied access to lawyers, held in cells 23 hours a day, ACLU lawsuit alleges

Migrants denied access to lawyers, held in cells 23 hours a day, ACLU lawsuit alleges

After crossing the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, 123 men have been detained for weeks, caged in prison cells for up to 23 hours per day and denied access to attorneys at a federal detention center in Sheridan, Oregon, a lawsuit filed Friday by t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Published: 06/22/18
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Published: 06/22/18
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Published: 06/22/18
Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Times wiresOMAHA, Neb.  —Defending champion Florida failed to win a third straight elimination game, losing to Arkansas 5-2 Friday night and departing the College World Series.The Gators (49-21) had to win to force a rematch. The Razorback...
Published: 06/22/18