Appeals court hears climate change lawsuit filed by high school students

EUGENE, Ore. - Olivia Chernaik is one of two plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the State of Oregon.

She's also a 17-year-old high school student.

"As youth and as a citizen, we have a right to go to the courts when our other political branches are failing to protect our natural resources and our constitutional rights," she said Thursday.

The lawsuit targets Oregon's public trust doctrine, a law that forces the governments to make sure there's public access to - and protection of - natural resources like rivers.

But the doctrine doesn't mention the atmosphere.

"Climate change is affecting every social and environmental justice right," Chernaik said.

She and fellow plaintiff Kelsey Juliana argue greenhouse gas emissions pollute the planet, threatening the world's climate.

"It's the crisis that is affecting this generation as well as every future generation," Chernaik said.

The girl's attorney appealed the case to a panel of 3 appeals court judges Thursday morning at the University of Oregon law school.

The state responds by saying it's a legislative decision that should be passed to the legislature, not the state.