Dickinson College student participates in landmark climate change lawsuit


Sophie Kivlehan, a sophomore at Dickinson College, is involved in a landmark lawsuit against the federal government. The subject: climate change.

He was watching a monarch butterfly hatch that first prompted Kivlehan to ask questions about science.

"By learning how much they have that innate sense of flying south of Mexico," recalls Kivlehan. "I thought it was so cool."

Also very cool, she learned the basics of science from James Hansen, former climatologist of NASA and the man she calls grandfather.

As a teenager, she started learning about climate change.

"The extent of the danger is almost incomprehensible, I have always known it, but knowing that others do not know it is crazy for me," she said.

So, in 2015, when she learned that a group of children was suing the federal government, alleging that it had knowingly failed to protect them from climate change, it was jumped on board.

"We say that the federal government's actions actively discriminate against young people by promoting emissions of extremely high levels of fossil fuels despite this concrete knowledge that they have had for decades," Kivlehan said.

There are 20 other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Juliana v. United States. The youngest is in sixth grade.

Kivlehan said the evidence they have is solid. The founding fathers wrote about the protection of public trust by the federal government.

"They wrote a lot in the declaration of independence on the right of young people, of our posterity, they said, to dispose of the country in the same way as we receive it," she explained.

The lawsuit indicates that the burning of fossil fuels has had an impact on the air, water, forests and coastlines of our country. Kivlehan said we can see its impact on agriculture in Central Pennsylvania.

"The warmer air, because of global warming, retains moisture more easily, which is why we are seeing more frequent storms," ​​said Kivlehan.

She also explained how the dramatic change in winter temperatures, which gives the impression that spring is also part of climate change, is causing trees to think that it is time to blossom.

She said trees had grown on her family's farm in Allentown and then froze, injuring him when he really needed to grow.

Although taking part in the pursuit means adding a few extra hours a week to his biochemistry and molecular biology classes, Kivlehan said the fight was worth it.

"80% of the progress of the trial are people who have heard about it and who have learned to know more, and who decided to cover it," she said.

The government has tried several times over the past two years to reject the lawsuit.

The Trump administration alone has lost five appeals to stop it, two in the United States Supreme Court.

This is a very lively case that could have a huge impact on the future of our country.

The 60 minutes of CBS did a special on the case. To learn more click here.